In the spirit of Ross Gay's iconic "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude," we present a selection of gratitude poems from the Voca archive, along with a writing prompt by Tucson poet, DJ, and educator Logan Phillips.
The title poem from Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude became an instant classic when the collection came out in 2015. The poet finds joy and inspiration in the muck and guts of the garden and the natural world.
Lucille Clifton's "won't you celebrate with me" is as concise as Ross Gay's poem is expansive--but it packs an equally powerful punch.
Playwright, musician, and former National Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. This meditation on the powerful communion to be found at the kitchen table is one we return to in times of stress, grief, and turmoil.
Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos read this poem of resilience, gratitude, and hope on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Creative Writing graduate program at the University of Arizona (of which he is an alumnus).
If you're feeling inspired to write a gratitude poem of your own, try this exercise by Tucson poet, DJ, and teacher Logan Phillips. This activity is designed for a group, but can also be done individually:
Introduction (5-10 minutes)
We know it’s healthy to be thankful for what’s around us, but often we don’t pause long enough to really consider the many things that are worthy of our gratitude. And as with writing, sometimes it’s hard to focus in specifics. So the first thing we’re going to do is brainstorm as many “categories of gratitude” as we can. For example, these are all categories of things we could be thankful for (I usually only give a couple of these examples, writing them on the board / projector, but here are several):
a. A physical space that we’re thankful for
b. A specific song that we’re thankful for
c. A person we’ve just met this semester…
d. A piece of clothing
e. A physical activity
f. A question we’ve been asked
g. A specific moment
h. A physical touch
i. An annoyance that we are thankful for
Listing: Categories of Gratitude (2-5 minutes)
So now let’s all think of our own. When I say “go,” spend the next few minutes making a list of categories of gratitude. Remember these aren’t actual people / places / things / ideas that you are grateful for, but rather really specific types of gratitudes that a person could have, like the examples on the board. Nothing’s too silly, too serious or too specific, so let’s see what we can come up with. Go!
Re-read & Select: Categories of Gratitude (1-3 minutes)
Ok, finish the item you’re writing, then please stop writing for now. Please take a moment to re-read the list you’ve just written, and circle two categories from your list. Which ones? Whichever two seem most juicy, unexpected, interesting, or just jump out at you.
Listing: Specific Gratitudes (10-20 minutes)
Great, now all of us have a couple categories. The next part of this workshop will be lead by all of us collectively. We’ll each take a turn (or two) to offer up a category of gratitude to the group. When the rest of us hear it, we’ll write down the first thing that pops in our heads, being as specific as possible.
For example, Juan might say “A certain meal that you’re thankful for,” and I might write down: “That red chile & fried cauliflower burrito from Tania’s I ate with Enrique, Meleena and Jackie on Saturday afternoon in the sunshine.” Then Juan will pick the next person to offer a category and we’ll write another one.
Take a look at what you’ve already circled. Who can start us off with a category? (Writing ensues)
Re-read & share out (10-20 minutes)
Ok, wow, that is a lot of stuff, a lot of gratitude. Please take a moment now and re-read the list of specific gratitudes you’ve written down, and circle two.
Now, we’ll go around in a circle and each of us will have the opportunity to share one of the gratitudes we’ve written down. After you read it, if you’d like to say a bit more about it, please do.
Closing: Look at All That
Before we finish, take a look at that page in front of you. Look at all that you have to be grateful for! Even on our worst days, there are opportunities to be grateful, whether those gratitudes are as small as a hello or as juicy as a red chile burrito.