When I was growing up and our family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house, we spent time around the dining table before serving the feast to discuss for what we were thankful. I remember as a kid chocolate and baseball rated highly in my thanking. Over the years my thankfulness shifted to extremely basic things like chlorophyll that facilitates photosynthesis and puts oxygen back into the air after we human and other animals exhale large amounts of carbon-dioxide.
This year I am thankful for language. I like that language allows us to express emotions and facts, concrete ideas and abstract ideas. My love of surrealism would be I-don’t-know-where without language. I appreciate how wonderfully flawed language is at communicating. Yet, look how far we have proceeded with an imperfect tool. Language is an every day reminder of how the perfection of the universe is constructed on flaws. How moving forward in all things is as difficult real communication, even communication with partners or close friends.
There are three poetry books I am thankful for and I return to them at least once a year and have poems selected with post-it tabs. The first book is The Lord And The General Din Of The World, by Jane Mead. I heard her read from the book in October of 1996 at a bookstore reading with open mic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She expressed personal struggle, loss and perseverance in a way that touched me and affected my early writing. One of my regrets in life is that when Jane Mead asked me for conversation over a pot of tea after the reading, I felt I had to say no because I drove five people to the reading (half-hour drive), it was already 10:30 p.m. and all of us had to work the next day (and some of my riders had kids).
My second book is The Woman Who Fell From The Sky, by Joy Harjo. Although this book was published in 1996, it did not come into my hands until 1999. I liked and adopted the story telling aspect of Harjo’s writing. Also, I liked her combination of the mythic with the every day experience.
If you have a poetry book you are thankful for or return to regularly, leave a comment and let me (and the other readers) know the title, so I (we) can add it to my (our) reading list.