03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Poems: The Cranberry Cantos

The Poetry Foundation

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

By Edgar Albert Guest

Family, Food, and Fellowship


By Elizabeth Alexander

Family Reunion
By Maxine W. Kumin

Perhaps the World Ends Here
By Joy Harjo


By Albert Goldbarth

Thanksgiving Magic
By Rowena Bastin Bennett

By Bruce Guernsey

By Eamon Grennan

The Season

My Triumph
By John Greenleaf Whittier

A Short History of the Shadow
By Charles Wright

Signs of the Times
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

Thanksgiving Day
By L. Maria Child

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

By C. K. Williams

The Gift Outright
By Robert Frost

To Autumn
By John Keats