Live Virtual Group Session: 1pm EDT May 31st 2020

47 participants joined us from NY, PA, IA, IN, NJ, IL, CA, MN, Italy, Canada, and India. After three readings (two aloud, one silent), the group discussed the many ways into and through the unpunctuated poem “Thanks,” by W.S. Merwin, posted below. The poem begins with a one-word first line: “Listen” that evoked an immediate narrator-to-reader call to action–a command emphasizing what may be said, healed, whatever makes you you.

Participants brought layered interpretations to the text, referencing a Jewish prayer, Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” and an expression of love, utility and futility (with no one listening at the end of the poem, does it negate all the “Thank you’s?”). With its tone and tensions, the poem served as a reminder that we as individual readers often see a text through a subjective lens and interpret it via our lived experiences. Questions we were left with included “Are we hopelessly praying? Are we blind and rotely saying thank you?”

The prompt ““Write about what you go on saying” generated creative responses ranging from the declarative (“I am just, … I am chaos, … still I am”) to the interrogative (“What am I? Can I be still?” and “What you go on saying? How? Tell me how? How do I better this place?”).

Beyond identifying questions, participants asked, “Must I listen to them?” and used imagery of four ionic societal pillars while exploring themes of race, gender, lack of listening, and blind spots.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Monday, June 1st at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

by W.S. Merwin

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
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).
Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin.