Poetry Break | Poet Laureate Catherine Pierce

Poetry Break
Catherine Pierce
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger
USA TODAY NETWORK

Ode of gratitude worth pausing for

Ah, November—that month nestled snugly between the candy chaos of October and the festivities of December. A month where we recover from Halloween, gear up for the winter holidays, and celebrate gratitude.

Every year, I look forward to Thanksgiving. I love gathering with people I care about, eating way too much delicious food, and spending the evening in a cozy, pumpkin pie-fueled lethargy. And I love that the holiday asks us to consider the things and people for which we’re thankful.

In our endlessly busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have time to pause, like we always need to be moving forward, getting closer to checking off the next thing on the list. So I’m grateful for this holiday that asks us to slow down and say thanks.

A poem, too, can prompt us to think a little longer, dive a little deeper into our gratitude for something or someone. These past few weeks, for example, I’ve caught myself marveling even more than usual at the trees as they change color—the gold of the hickory, the bright blaze of the maple. I slow down a bit when I’m driving past a grove of color; I walk my neighborhood craning my head upward so as not to miss a pocket of yellow or orange. It doesn’t feel accurate to say, simply, “I really love how the trees are changing color right now.” It doesn’t feel like enough. But in a poem, I can take my time. I can consider my gratitude and how it feels.

This Month’s Poetry Break: A Quiet Thank You

Think about something small for which you’re thankful. What’s something that brings you a little joy or comfort, something that makes your life better? Not a person or a beloved pet, but something more subtle. Something that maybe you’ve never even consciously considered when thinking about gratitude. It might be your morning cup of coffee, or the way the wind sounds in the trees behind your house. It might be that one lamp in your living room, the one that gives off just the perfect amount of light. It might be your favorite sweater.

Whatever it is, take a few minutes to really consider that thing. If you can, let yourself experience it—brew that cup of coffee and think about how you’re feeling as you sip it. Listen to the trees, turn on the lamp, cozy up in that sweater. Which senses are you using? Taste? Touch? Sound? What does this thing make you feel? What does it help you remember?

Now write a thank you poem to your chosen thing. Address your poem directly to it, like a letter—Dear Morning Cup of Coffee; Dear Living Room Lamp—and tell it why you’re grateful. See what you learn and notice in the process.

Example:

Dear Oversized Blue Sweater

Thank you for offering a small refuge

from this afternoon of cold and clouds.

Thank you for your softness.

The day was full of questions—

where is my phone, what

is the kindest way to say no,

how do I keep people safe—

and you don’t mind that

I have no answers. You say,

“Here, be warm.” You know

rest matters. You hold me.

You ask for nothing.

The poem you write might turn out to surprise you—why ARE you so thankful for this thing? And now that you’ve written this little gratitude ode, you might find you appreciate it even more. See what you discover as you write. Delight in that thankfulness. Write your life.


Catherine Pierce is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the author of four books of poems, most recently “Danger Days”. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

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