9 Poems About Showing Your Gratitude

Agricultural field with group of sunflowers in sunshine. The sunflower flower is very special becaus...
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If you're looking for one simple way to work more gratitude into your life and expand your imagination at the same time, there's no better single thing to read than poetry. Like gratitude, poems feel inevitable and instantaneous; they seem to capture a purer or higher clarity about the world — even if their language or form might be a little confusing.

Poems are the perfect thing to read when you're trying to better your gratitude-showing skills because they prompt us, as readers, to see the world more fully. Being present and aware in the moment helps us be thankful — that's obvious. And poems are also — at least ... well, sometimes — often small. Those little things matter: anyone who has kept a gratitude journal will attest to that.

When you're reading a poem and trying to practice showing gratitude, pay attention to all the sensory details in the writing. Observe the rhythm of the words; notice how they look on the page. Remember all the tiny choices that go into constructing a poem — yeah, it's kinda English class throwback, but as soon as you remember that even left-justifying a poem is a statement, you can better appreciate all the work that goes into making literature. I believe training ourselves to be more sensitive readers helps us cultivate that appreciation of beauty and intention in everyday life. These 9 poems are great to spend time with — and, bonus points! — they also implicitly or explicitly address the subject of giving thanks.

1. " Butter" by Elizabeth Alexander

Growing up

we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon

and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,

butter melting in small pools in the hearts

of Yorkshire puddings, butter better

than gravy staining white rice yellow,

butter glazing corn in slipping squares,

butter the lava in white volcanoes

of hominy grits, butter softening

in a white bowl to be creamed with white

sugar, butter disappearing into

whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,

butter melted and curdy to pour

over pancakes, butter licked off the plate

with warm Alaga syrup.

2. " Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus " by Denise Levertov


flow and change, night and

the pulse of day.

3. "Visiting Pai-an Pavilion" by Hsieh Ling-yun

I remember men who knew a hundred sorrows,

and the gratitude they felt for gifts.

Joy and sorrow pass, each by each,

failure at one moment, happy success the next.

But not for me. I have chosen freedom

from the world’s cares. I chose simplicity.

4. "Two Countries" by Naomi Shihab Nye

Even now, when skin is not alone,

it remembers being alone and thanks something larger

that there are travelers, that people go places

larger than themselves.

5. "A List Of Praises" by Anne Porter

Give praise with water, With storms of rain and thunder And the small rains that sparkle as they dry, And the faint floating ocean roar That fills the seaside villages, And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

6. "Blessings" by Jay Parini

Blessings on these things and more: the rivers and the houses full of light, the bitter weeds that taste like sun, dirt-sweetened spuds, the hard bright pebbles, spongy mosses, lifting of our bodies into whiffs of cloud, all sleep-warm pillows in the break of dawn.

7. "The Culture Of Glass" by Thylias Moss

The future of fortunes is manufactured revelation of a snow globe: when the right someone gets his hands on such a world, that world is shaken to pieces, the glass is tapped in the aquarium, semitransparent arowanas remain inexplicable, a tapper’s desire breaks out: oh to become glass, to slide the foot into a transparent baby slipper arowana and dance with a prince whose glass toenails shatter when he runs after glass-footed beauties

8. "One Today" by Richard Blanco

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home, always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop and every window, of one country—all of us— facing the stars hope—a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it—together

9. "Starfish" by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman down beside you at the counter who say, Last night, the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder, is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Images: Andrés Pérez Wittmann/Moment/Getty Images; Giphy