4 Poems to Help You Lean Into Gratitude
Oftentimes, poetry stands out as a way to explore complex, painful emotions and arrive at catharsis. However, writers also use poetry to express their happiness, excitement, and gratitude—feelings that can be just as nuanced and personal. As we enter the holiday season, these poems can help you reflect on what you’re thankful for. If you want to take an even more poetic approach to gratitude, consider drafting a poem of your own.
1. “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” by Ross Gay
“Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
Thank you paisley panties.
Thank you the organ up my dress.
Thank you the sheer dress you wore kneeling in my dream
at the creek’s edge and the light
swimming through it. The koi kissing
halos into the glassy air.”
Ross Gay’s “Poem of Unabashed Gratitude” is from his collection of the same name, which went on to win the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award. This poem is a powerful, musical manifestation of gratitude, stretching across long lines and over more than a dozen stanzas. Through this journey—which shows the rhythmic poet’s skill for establishing momentum—Gay paints an inclusive portrait of thankfulness, one that relies on community and us all taking steps to better it. While he doesn’t shy away from how arduous this collective action can be, regularly alluding to life’s ardor, injustice, and challenges, he encourages hope and even whimsy as we strive toward it.
2. “The Orange” by Wendy Cope
“At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.”
Sometimes the smallest moments can awaken our gratitude, a concept to which Wendy Cope’s “The Orange” pays tribute. We may think to be grateful in large-scale moments—like after landing a dream job or getting married—but Cope encourages us to find those same feelings in the midst of everyday scenarios, like laughing with friends at lunch. Overall, Cope’s playful poem is a call to stay present and to remain in tune with our easily amused childhood selves.
3. This untitled poem from Courtney Peppernell’s Pillow Thoughts II
“Your heart is here to grow
water it with love
let the light in
Remember your heart
is a world beating
beneath your skin”
Many of the poems on this list speak to feeling gratitude for friendships, relationships, and general community, all of which are important. Beloved poet Courtney Peppernell’s writing from Pillow Thoughts II goes in a different but equally vital direction, reveling in the gratitude and peace that arrive when we love and trust ourselves. In this simple and moving poem, Peppernell depicts the interior world as a sprawling, ever-evolving universe, teaching us to peer into all its corners and to feel grateful for the teachings we find.
4. “Daisies” by Mary Oliver
“It is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example – I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch –
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.”
Mary Oliver is known for being a poet whose work focused on nature, wonder, and joy. Her poem “Daisies” perfectly exemplifies this, as she ruminates on the beauty of the sun, the field, and the daisies that make up her surroundings, realizing how each nurtures the other. Like other poems on this list, “Daisies” advocates for finding joy in simplicity, as well as recognizing how so much around us is already thriving.
Happy holidays from Read Poetry!