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Enjoying Thanksgiving with Poetry

posted: 11.22.09 by archived

Thanksgiving is in the air. Can it also be in the classroom? If so, in what form? Before you instructors and students head to festivities this week, perhaps there’s time for one more fun assignment.

There are the  traditional approaches to the holiday, with poems such as Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Thanks” or  W. S. Merwin’s “Listen” serving as models.

Lauren McClung writes that Komunyakaa’s poem sparks interesting writing. “Usually I have the students read it and then spend some time writing their own “thanks” poem.  Often the students will borrow the list-like form and let their own ideas flow.  If they have a hard time I may point out how it begins with thanks to an object.  This has been a great trigger for my classes.”

Sherine Gilmour agrees that while the Thanksgiving the holiday doesn’t provide much fodder, the idea of thankfulness does. She offers the Gerald Stern poem “Lucky Life.”

Sarah Heller writes that the William Matthews poem “Depressive,”  published in the Winter 1980-1  Ploughshares journal, contains the great line “the turkey is stuffed with the memory of turkey…” which could be used as a prompt.

Or, she says, check out Marie Ponsot’s new book for a poem written in the voice of a turkey.  “Not T-giving specific,” warns Heller, “but still.”

Finally, as the New York Times reported last Thursday, so often these kinds of festive gatherings can bring out the most regressed behavior from all parties involved–parents, grandparents, children, siblings, and other relations.  Did you know there is a “Mothers-in-Law Anonymous” section on grandparents.com? Good fodder for poems, perhaps?

Enjoy your holiday! (Gobble gobble.)

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Creative Writing, Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature
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