gratitude journal

8 Poems for Gratitude

2020 has been a rough year, but looking back with gratitude is an important tool for helping us cope. Studies show that a conscious and consistent effort to find gratitude, whether through journaling, reading, or verbal expression, can actually improve mental health and perhaps even change our brains to recognize gratitude more often. 


Poetry is a beautiful art form for finding and expressing gratitude. From a poem’s higher meaning to the mechanics of its language, there are endless small moments to appreciate within the experience of reading or writing a poem. Sensory details and sly wordplay can help us feel present and make us smile, while the subject of a poem might help us consider our own fortune. 


To set our minds and hearts on the path of giving thanks, we’ve selected eight poems that help cultivate an appreciation of beauty and intention.


acknowledgments” by Danez Smith

From award-winning poet and poetry slam artist Danez Smith comes a microcosm of friendship. The poem “acknowledgments” is made up of all the tiny moments in a friendship that build a full picture. Throughout the poem, Smith recounts brief but detailed memories to describe the nature of the friendship and its importance in the speaker’s life. 


A List of Praises” by Anne Porter

“A List of Praises” comes from Porter’s 2006 collection, Living Things. Somewhere between a hymn and an ode, this poem sings praises for the details in life we often take for granted. The sky, a baby’s cry, and a bird’s wings all earn her thankful gaze. 


Blessings” by Jay Parini

Parini takes readers on a journey from childhood to adulthood in this thankful poem. The poet paints memories of his grandmother’s house, friends from adolescence, lovers, and more. 


Butter” by Elizabeth Alexander

From Alexander’s 1996 collection Body of Life comes the poem “Butter.” Reflecting on the tie between food, family, and memory, this poem will surely whet your appetite for Thanksgiving dinner. 


Remember” by Joy Harjo

From Harjo’s 1983 collection, She Had Some Horses, comes the poem “Remember.” Harjo encourages readers to appreciate the earth and their family history in her signature steady yet breathless poetic style. 


Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene” by Craig Santos Perez

Published in Rattle, Craig Santos Perez’s poem “Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene” gives a slightly dark twist to the idea of thankfulness. Detailing the audacities committed to bring each Thanksgiving dish to the table, Perez reminds us to remain keenly aware of each other’s suffering, thankful for the work of others, and forgiving to those who have done wrong. 


The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver

From Oliver’s 2007 collection, Thirst, comes the poem “The Uses of Sorrow.” Oliver describes in simple yet artful terms how even difficulties merit a sense of gratefulness over time. 


Visiting Pai-an Pavilion” by Hsieh Ling-yun

A sense of stoicism and simplicity shines in this lovely poem. Hseih Ling-yun draws on images of nature to illustrate the emotional ups and downs of life and finds freedom in enjoying the simple things.