Saturday, November 14, 2020

Prompt #364 – Giving Thanks in the Time of Covid-19



If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, 

it will be enough.


— Meister Eckhart


Thanksgiving will take place later this month and is a day set aside here in the United States (other countries have similar days) to remember and give thanks—it is a time when families and friends gather—a celebration of sharing, community, and gratitude. This year, our Thanksgiving celebrations will be curtailed and different because of Covid-19. Even in the best of times, it’s easy to fall into the habit of grumbling about what we don’t have, miss, need, etc. This year has been particularly challenging with the specter of Covid 19 haunting all of us. Many of us have lost family members and friends to Covid, many of us have lost jobs, and our businesses have failed. Our social lives are much less than they were, and meeting family members and friends is more often done via programs such as Zoom and Skype than in person. There may seem to be a lot less to be thankful for this year, but I’m going to ask you to dig deeply into yourself and to think about the blessings you have been given.


The challenge for this prompt is to write a poem that focuses on abundances rather than deficits—despite Covid-19.




1. Begin by thinking about things for which you're grateful. Think in terms of particulars and details—not ideas, but specifics (i.e., not love, but an example of love that you've known; not friendship, but a particular friend).


2. Think of past places in which you've been especially thankful (the “geography of thanks”). Think of the people who were part of the story.


3. Write a few ideas for “thankful” refrains (repeated line, phrase, or word) before you begin writing the poem. You may want to use this refrain in your poem.


4. A form that lends itself to this prompt is the kyrielle. Once very popular, the kyrielle originated in France, dates to the Middle Ages, and takes its name from kyrie (found in many Christian liturgies). Many hymn lyrics were written in this form, but kyrielle content is not limited to religious subjects. A traditional kyrielle is often short, octosyllabic (each line contains eight syllables), and is typically presented in four-line stanzas. A traditional kyrielle also contains a refrain (a repeated line, phrase, or word) at the end of each stanza.


  • Begin by writing a quatrain (four-line stanza) about a particular thing for which you're thankful. Each line should contain eight syllables. If you wish, you may create a rhyme scheme. The last line, phrase, or word in your first stanza will become your refrain.
  • You may write about one thing for which you're grateful, or each quatrain may be about individual things that have inspired your gratitude.


5. Alternatively, you may choose to write another kind of formal poem. There are many from which to choose: sonnet, villanelle, haiku, tanka, haibun, etc.




1. If you choose to write a kyielle or other formal type of poem, it is vital that the form does not “drive” your poem. If the form begins to feel forced or unwieldy, you may switch to something less deliberate (i.e., free verse, prose poem).


2. You might address or dedicate your poem to a person for whom you're thankful, or you might go to the flip side and write about a challenging time (this year, for example) that somehow led you to feelings of gratefulness (my mom used to say that good always comes from bad).





Kyrielle by John Payne (1842-1916)


A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,

A bee that drowns in the flower-cup's wine,

A fly in sunshine,--such is the man.

All things must end, as all began.


A little pain, a little pleasure,

A little heaping up of treasure;

Then no more gazing upon the sun.

All things must end that have begun.


Where is the time for hope or doubt?

A puff of the wind, and life is out;

A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.

All things must end that have begun.


Golden morning and purple night,

Life that fails with the failing light;

Death is the only deathless one.

All things must end that have begun.


Ending waits on the brief beginning;

Is the prize worth the stress of winning?

E'en in the dawning day is done.

All things must end that have begun.


Weary waiting and weary striving,

Glad out setting and sad arriving;

What is it worth when the goal is won?

All things must end that have begun.


Speedily fades the morning glitter;

Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.

Two are parted from what was one.

All things must end that have begun.


Toil and pain and the evening rest;

Joy is weary and sleep is best;

Fair and softly the day is done.

All things must end that have begun.


Poems about Thankfulness and Thanksgiving:


“Te Deum” by Charles Reznikoff


“Thanks” by W. S. Merwin


“When Giving Is All We Have” by Alberto Ríos (audio)


“Thanksgiving Letter from Harry” by Carl Dennis

From “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus” by Denise Levertov

“Thanksgiving Day” by Lydia Maria Child




Dear Blog Readers, 


I wish each of you a blessed and healthy Thanksgiving! 

 Stay home, stay safe, and be well!




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