Here’s a challenge for you: write a Thanksgiving Holiday poem that actually gives thanks for the holiday Americans celebrated this past week. I bet it’s harder than you think. Sure, there are a lot of poems giving thanks, most of them come in the form of an ode — I once wrote a poem called “Ode to a Coffee Mug” — but if you have written about the holiday, what was the poem REALLY about?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I hate holidays. Not just this one, but all of them. I am a Scrooge, and I don’t only show up on Christmas. So my Thanksgiving Holiday poem would most likely be about the anxiety of getting together with the family, the stressed-out host, the fasting I do all day because dinner comes early, and the early dinner I hate because of the dry turkey, overcooked green beans, and processed mashed potatoes. I stuff myself because I’m hungry now and don’t want to be hungry later. Then there’s the awkward conversation I have with the eccentric uncle in the corner, or the cousin I rarely see, to whom I suddenly have to say goodbye because the kids need to go to bed. Finally, who’s the drunk guy no one seems to claim as a guest, who can’t stop discussing Hitler?
These all make great subjects for what can be great poems. But it’s all so depressing; what would I really be thanking?
This is a universal theme so many people experience; and yet, as we think about all the things that went wrong, we forget we had a good time anyway. So if you’re American, write a poem giving thanks to the holiday you just celebrated that actually gives thanks. Write an ode to the turkey you ate , thanking it for giving its life; the stressed-out host, for opening their doors for the cause, the family member you hate being with, because you love them anyway; the holiday you hate celebrating, because if nothing else, you get a day off from your horrible job — all with true appreciation; no sarcasm allowed.
If you’re not American, write one when you do celebrate Thanksgiving, or when you socially give thanks, even if there is no official Holiday. The idea here is to give thanks at a time when you are supposed to but don’t want to! To further the challenge, the ode is too expected — be as far from unexpected as you can with your poem; that gives it a unique quality. An ode to a coffee cup is fine, but for my poem I might write it as a blues poem (a blues poem refers to the style of writing, not the subject matter).
And here’s my request, separate from the challenge: if you write it about the weird guy in the corner, or the family member you don’t like, share the poem with that person, it can then transcend the exercise from one that gives thanks to one that heals souls.
Now that I live in India, I will need to rely on some Thanksgivings of the past. I didn’t celebrate the holiday this year, and as a Scrooge, I was happy about it. I can’t write about missing the holiday though — that’s cheating.
Thanksgivings for me are usually one of two varieties — staying in the area and seeing close family or going to Cherry Hill, NJ where my extended family gathers. I prefer the latter because I see people I enjoy seeing but only see once a year at most, and because other than dealing with the traffic on the way up, it is pretty much stress-free. I am a big fan of my extended family. So for me, writing about this variety of Thanksgiving holidays is also out of the question. It’s not a big enough challenge.
I will probably need to shed my identity as a Scrooge before writing. That may be my biggest challenge, no matter what the subject.