Poetry Friday: Thanks

My pastor’s wife’s favorite book of the Bible is Lamentations. We like to mock her about this. Really, what kind of a weirdo loves Lamentations, for goodness sake? Still, even while mocking her I know why she loves it. Sometimes comfort is found in dark places. I myself find Ecclesiastes to be one of the most encouraging books for my own spiritual life.

I just started reading Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner. I have enjoyed reading many of Winner’s past books and I’m already greatly enjoying this one. In it Winner has a chapter where she reads the following poem  by W. S. Merwin to her family at Thanksgiving. In the book she is actually pointing out the bleakness of the poem more than the hope. Since I first read it I’ve re-read it three or four times. Each time I hear it with a different tone. There is darkness. But I think there is also hope.

I have to also admit that I had never heard of W. S. Merwin. When I discovered that he was Poet Laureate of the U.S. in 2010 and won the Pultizer Prize for Poetry twice, I was both slightly embarrassed and even more convinced that I need to work on my own poetry education.

Thanks by W. S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

For the full poem, visit here.

Poetry Friday is hosted at The Iris Chronicles this week.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Thanks

  1. I’m familiar with this poem, and there’s something I really like about it. But I do feel it comes to rest in bleakness — especially the “with nobody listening” part.

    This is the second post where someone is reading Still. I’ve had it on reserve at the library since before it was published, but I still don’t have the book in my hands. Poor me. 😉 Looking forward to it!

  2. Pingback: Poetry Friday | The Iris Chronicles

  3. I’ve read this poem before as well, but I think I need to revisit it. Parts of it I’m quite drawn to – gratitudes expressed even in the midst of dire circumstances – and yet the frantic pace at the end, and the phrase Janet notes, “with nobody listening,” are unsettling. Thanks for sharing.

    • Janet-
      I think you will enjoy Still, it’s worth the wait.

      Robyn-
      I appreciate your and Janet’s thoughts on the poem. I’m not sure I’d say I like the poem as much as I’d say it interests me. There is something that keeps drawing me back, even though it’s not truly comforting.

  4. I’m the other reader of Still Janet refers to. :-). I think Lauren Winner and I could get along, despite our differences. I really, really like her stuff.

  5. Thanks for posting this poem. Much of Merwin’s stuff I find inaccessible, but this one was reassuring and therefore welcome. At last, something that makes sense to me. 🙂

  6. The way this poem lures you in and then finishes up at that frenetic pace IS disturbing…it has always left me unsettled and contemplative – which is what poetry challenges us to do.

  7. Hi Alice, it’s also my first time to hear about W. S. Merwin – thank you for sharing this poem – for some reason I am also drawn to tendrils of darknesses and wayward grim thoughts and ponderings, will look for more of his poems and see for myself. 🙂

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