“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”
— French Proverb
Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will be celebrated this week on Thursday, November 27th. Our Thanksgiving has a long history beginning in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. For over 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the official day for a national Thanksgiving observance. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, and in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is also celebrated in certain other countries, including Canada, Grenada, Liberia, The Netherlands, and the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island.
Gratitude is a developmental emotion, and books have been written on its psychology. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” There are times in our lives when we feel more Grinch than grateful, especially when the stresses of every day living gather momentum and all but overwhelm us. However, acknowledging and expressing our gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our lives, relationships, and work.
What are you grateful for? This week let’s write a list poem about the blessings in our lives and things for which we’re grateful.
A list poem is one in which each line may begin the same way (repetition or anaphora).
The French proverb above tells us, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Our first step in writing this week will be to remember—to look into our memories to identify a list of things for which we’re grateful. (A couple of years ago, we did this same prompt but focused on a single thing.)
1. Make a list of blessings in your life or a list of things for which you’re thankful—be inclusive, try to get as many items on your list as possible (things for which you’re truly grateful, even small things that are sometimes taken for granted).
2. A list poem is typically one in which each line may begin the same way (repetition or anaphora). You may start out using this kind of format and either keep it or change it when you begin revising.
3. Your poem may be stichic (one stanza with no line breaks), it may be a formal poem (ode, sonnet, villanelle, or a kyrielle as we worked with in Prompt #32, November 20, 2010); you may choose to write a prose poem or your poem may take the form of prayer or a letter.
4. As you write, think about the reasons for your gratitude and show (without telling) what those feelings mean.
1. Pay attention to the order of your list. Is there a beginning, a middle, and end. You may want to move your list items around. Remember that you’ll need a good dismount—perhaps the last line in your poem won’t begin as the others have.
2. Dig deeply to reach beyond the specifics of your personal experience to the underlying universal subject with which your readers will identify.
3. As an alternative to a list poem, 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 (or a time of adversity) that somehow led you to feelings of gratefulness (my mom used to say that good always comes from bad).