Nov 22, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Thanksgiving Poetry and Creative Nonfiction

Thank you to Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. for hosting Poetry Friday today!
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I’ve had lots of fun preparing for a lesson on creative nonfiction poetry I will be leading next week. I wanted to tie this lesson to Thanksgiving, and the historical background of the holiday provided the perfect context. During my research, I was excited to find several books with wonderful poems about Thanksgiving, including:

·        Jack Prelutsky’s IT’S THANKSGIVING, a fun book of poems by one of today’s greatest children’s poets

·        THANKSGIVING POEMS, a book of Thanksgiving poetry selected by Myra Cohn Livingston

·        THANKSGIVING STORIES AND POEMS, edited by Caroline Feller Bauer

·        THIS IS THE FEAST, a stunning picture book by Diane Z. Shore written entirely in rhyming couplets and beautifully illustrated by Megan Lloyd
The collections include both creative nonfiction and fun fiction poems about Thanksgiving, and I highly recommend them all to anyone looking for great poetry about this holiday. And the picture book is brimming with figurative language and imagery that is brought into sharp focus with the accompanying illustrations! (Can you tell I’ve *really* had fun researching this topic?☺)

I also came across another wonderful Thanksgiving poem that I will share below. “The First Thanksgiving” was written by southern poet Margaret Junkin Preston in the 1800s. This is a longer work, but is a great example of creative nonfiction poetry and I was so excited to run across it:

The First Thanksgiving
by Margaret Junkin Preston
"And now," said the Governor, gazing abroad on the piled-up store
Of the sheaves that dotted the clearings
and covered the meadows o'er,
"Tis meet that we render praises
because of this yield of grain;
Tis meet that the Lord of the harvest
be thanked for his sun and rain."
"And, therefore, I, William Bradford
(by the grace of God today,
And the franchise of this good people),
Governor of Plymouth, say,
Through virtue of vested power--
ye shall gather with one accord,
And hold, in the month of November,
thanksgiving unto the Lord."
"He hath granted us peace and plenty,
and the quiet we've sought so long;
He hath thwarted the wily savage,
and kept him from wrack and wrong;
And unto our feast the Sachem shall be bidden,
that he may know
We worship his own Great Spirit,
who maketh the harvests grow."
"So shoulder your matchlocks, masters--
there is hunting of all degrees;
And, fishermen, take your tackle,
and scour for spoils the seas;
And, maidens and dames of Plymouth,
your delicate crafts employ
To honor our First Thanksgiving,
and make it a feast of joy!"
"We fail of the fruits and dainties--
we fail of the old home cheer;
Ah, these are the lightest losses,
mayhap, that befall us here;
But see, in our open clearings,
how golden the melons lie;
Enrich them with sweets and spices,
and give us the pumpkin-pie!"
So, bravely the preparations went on
for the autumn feast;
The deer and the bear were slaughtered;
wild game from the greatest to least
Was heaped in the colony cabins;
brown home-brew served for wine,
And the plum and the grape of the forest,
for orange and peach and pine.
At length came the day appointed;
the snow had begun to fall,
But the clang from the meeting-house belfry
rang merrily over all,
And summoned the folk Of Plymouth,
who hastened with glad accord
To listen to Elder Brewster
as he fervently thanked the Lord.
In his seat sate Governor Bradford;
men, matrons, and maidens fair,
Miles Standish and all his soldiers,
with corselet and sword, were there;
And sobbing and tears and gladness
had each in its turn the sway,
For the grave of the sweet Rose Standish
o'ershadowed Thanksgiving Day.
And when Massasoit, the Sachem,
sate down with his hundred braves,
And ate of the varied riches
of gardens and woods and waves,
And looked on the granaried harvest--
with a blow on his brawny chest,
He muttered, "The good Great Spirit
loves his white children best!"
I know this is turning into a long post, but I have to include one more poem that kept popping up everywhere during my research this week. This poem by an unknown (but very talented) poet gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling and embodies all the holiday has to offer:
Thanksgiving Time
When all the leaves are off the boughs,
And nuts and apples gathered in,
And cornstalks waiting for the cows,
And pumpkins safe in barn and bin,
Then Mother says, "My children dear,
The fields are brown, and autumn flies;
Thanksgiving Day is very near,
And we must make thanksgiving pies!"
Author Unknown
 Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Writing!


  1. I like the cover of "This is a Feast." You might have seen this already (and it seems like you already have a bunch!), but has a selection of Thanksgiving poems: and an article about Thanksgiving poems:

    1. Thanks so much, Tabatha! These are great, and I hadn't seen this yet, which is odd because I LOVE I really appreciate you bringing this to my attention! = )

  2. What a bountiful feast of a post! Hadn't seen either of these poems before. The first is so rich and vivid -- wonderful to step back in time with it. The second is so cozy and reassuring and of course I love the mention of Thanksgiving pies (the best part of the holiday meal IMHO).

    Thanks for the book suggestions too. THIS IS THE FEAST looks stunning. Happy Thanksgiving, Becky!

  3. Becky,
    Thanks for all the information, the recommendations and the FUN. I enjoyed our visit.

  4. I'm already thinking about my Thanksgiving pies... Always the traditional (pecan & pumpkin) and something new- this year it's eggnog custard pie.
    Thanks for the poem...

    1. You are making me hungry, Mirka! Enjoy your holiday (and your pie!). : )

  5. Having enjoyed our own Canadian Thanksgiving feast over a month ago, I'm really enjoying these second helpings! Love those two poems you posted. There's nothing like a rhyming story poem to snag and keep the interest.

    1. "Second Helpings" would be a great title for a poem, Violet! You're so lucky to get to celebrate twice!

  6. We're having 20 people at the table for Thanksgiving this year - I'm going to read that second poem to everyone. We are definitely into PIES!! Thanks, Becky.

  7. Oh, the ending of that first poem is kinda sad. And a Norman Rockwell painting goes perfect w/the second!

    1. I know! I had to think about how to take that. I'm still not sure...
      I am changing the word "slaughtered" to "prepared" for my school lesson. I am trying to decide what to do about that last line, as well. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. A wonderful Thanksgiving tribute! To remember the complete and complex Thanksgiving story - we have to consider all of the truths. Thank you, Becky, and I hope you and your family have a blessed day of Thanks!

  9. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for your lovely post!


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