Harrison Middleton University

Poetic Gratitude

Poetic Gratitude

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


November 24, 2023

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

Each fall, Great Books San Francisco hosts a Poetry Weekend. And if there’s one thing that I’m grateful for in this world, it’s poetry. I love to attend this event because of its hybrid nature. The first day is filled with reading and discussion. Groups of fifteen or so are separated into Zoom spaces where we read, analyze, and compare a handful of previously selected poems. This is always enlightening. It gives dimension to the poems, to metaphor itself, as well as to the voices around us. As I have often said on this blog, listening is a vital skill, perhaps the most vital. In listening, not just to a poem, but to others’ responses to a poem, I learn more than I ever would on my own.

The second half of each weekend is spent with a poet. Sometimes they offer a bit of a workshop, sometimes a lecture, sometimes a discussion, all of which are enjoyable. This event allows the poet to speak as they are most comfortable. This year, Elizabeth Herron, current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, read works of others, recommended books, talked about favorite lines, and generously listened to the audience. Poet presenters always amaze me with their generosity and she did not disappoint. Elizabeth Herron spent an entire Sunday with this random group of readers who just want to know more about what she finds important in the world. And the random group of readers generously gives their time in an effort to learn more, know more, hear more, explore more. It’s a fabulous experience.

The Great Books San Francisco poetry committee spends a lot of time compiling the list of poems to be read. They plan ahead and discuss the poems before the event as a way of generating questions. They do so much legwork that the event runs without a hitch. Thanks to all those who participated in the event, but also those who planned it!

I always walk away astounded with gratitude, which is a fitting theme for today’s blog. (As a side note, if it were up to me, I would add gratitude to the list of great ideas, along with forgiveness, because both contain great complexity and importance in defining what it means to be human.) So, in gratitude for this wonderful event, I took a line from each poem that we discussed and shaped the following found poem (attribution follows). I hope it serves the moment and the day. May you find a quiet moment to create space for yourself and your loved ones!

Found Poem With Ten Diverse Voices

without fire in words without love

in its emptiness, the world

– O give me a room to keep a secret –

fractal branching of mistakes

the nothingness of winter becomes a little less.

the gift of shadows

in the staggering universe

got up. They danced away

I can breathe now through any fire

for every atom belonging to me as good

Belongs to you.

  • (“The Light, Changed by Yves Bonnefoy, translated John Naughton)
  • (“Aubade” by Louise Glück)
  • (“Acorn” by Phillis Levin)
  • (“Daedal” by A.E. Stallings)
  • (“The Course of a Particular” by Wallace Stevens)
  • (“The Lamplighter” by Eavan Boland)
  • (“Another Story” by Ellen Bass)
  • (“Jacaranda” by Aracelis Girmay)
  • (“How Music Stays in the Body” by Lee Herrick)
  • (last two lines from “Singularity” by Marie Howe, a quote itself, of course, from Whitman’s Song of Myself)

Thanks again to Great Books San Francisco for Poetry Weekend 2023. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: marekuliasz/Shutterstock

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