Poem Sampler

The Cranberry Cantos

Thanksgiving poems for family and friends.

by The Editors
The Cranberry Cantos
Illustration: Mark McGinnis

Thanksgiving is America’s harvest festival—a time to acknowledge the help of family and friends, and a reminder of what a gift it is to be alive. It’s a day to overindulge in the here and now, even as we reflect on the past. In other words, it’s the perfect holiday for poetry! While a barn full of winter stock and a home overrun with family and friends does not fit with our popular conception of the poet as solitary brooder, these poems show that the occasion has provided poets—from Harriet Maxwell Converse in the 19th century to Elizabeth Alexander in the 21st—with plenty of food for thought. Whether you’re looking for a pre-meal toast, a scrap of American history, or a late night conversation starter, these poems should provide ample stuffing.

Toasts and Prayers

A Thanksgiving to God, for his House by Robert Herrick

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson

The Thanksgivings by Harriet Maxwell Converse

Thanksgiving by Edgar Guest


Family, Food, and Fellowship

Butter by Elizabeth Alexander

Family Reunion by Maxine W. Kumin

Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo

América by Richard Blanco

The New-England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day by Lydia Maria Child

Stomackes by Albert Goldbarth

Thanksgiving Magic by Rowena Bastin Bennett

Yam by Bruce Guernsey

Totem by Eamon Grennan

Bless Their Hearts by Richard Newman

First Thanksgiving by Sharon Olds

Thanksgiving for Two by Marjorie Saiser



The Season

To Autumn by John Keats

My Triumph by John Greenleaf Whittier

Signs of the Times by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Garden of Proserpine by Algernon Charles Swinburne

The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier

When the Frost is on the Punkin by James Whitcomb Riley

Zebra by C.K. Williams

The Gift Outright by Robert Frost


Originally Published: November 20, 2009


On November 25, 2009 at 10:07am Nigel Dookhoo wrote:
I absolutely love your list of poems, but I do find one element about the Thanksgiving meal absent. Where are the poems about wine? I do believe that Robert Herrick's poem, "The Welcome to Sack," would make an excellent addition to your list as an homage to that which brings much thanks at Thanksgiving; not to mention, that most traditional event of all family feasts, the cathartic release of grievance -"Purge hence the guilt and kill this quarrelling"; usually, at the dinner table, just before pie. "Call me the son of beer."

On November 25, 2009 at 10:23am katherine wrote:
Thank you for feeding our souls as well as our stomaches!

On November 25, 2009 at 10:53am Brooke wrote:
Wonderful....so thankful to read about Poetry Foundation in the LA times, I am currently in a poetry survey class and your site is perfect for our continued education.....I plan to read Keats at my Thanksgiving dinner this year....Thank you so much for sharing with the LA Times!!!!

On November 23, 2010 at 1:47pm Charlie wrote:
Next year I hope you'll make room for
Susan Kinsolving's wry reflection on the
day, "Fill the Cavity with Crumbs."

You can find it online on the NY Times site
(from 2003), but the formatting is
interrupted by ads. For a cleaner look, I'd
recommend the following:


Among other virtues, the title is brilliant.

On November 23, 2010 at 3:51pm Neal Whitman wrote:
Agree with all: wonderful list. Might I add
our choice, read with pumpkin pie and a
spalsh of coffee in my Irish? Donald Hall's
"The Oxcart Man." It's wonder is the
allowance of all at the table to weigh in: Is
it a happy or sad story? Every reader, of
course, has the last word.

Amicus poeticae,
Neal Whitman

On November 21, 2014 at 11:47am Ann Engelman wrote:
And this sweet poem of the season from Lorine Niedecker. . .


We must pull
the curtains—
we haven't any


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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