Writing Prompt – Praise the Mutilated World
There are many ways to praise the day, praise the world, this mutilated world of ours. We can look for something easy to praise, or we can praise what is overlooked. We can praise the smallest of things. You can begin by praising what has been damaged, what has survived. You can praise the very thing that irks you, today. You can praise what you love the best.
Following are three very different praise poems. Adam Zagajewski praises small things, wild strawberries, a gray feather, while acknowledging the fact that there are "refugees heading nowhere." In Joy Harjo's poem, she praises things that are at an interesting angle from each other: "Praise crazy. Praise Sad." She praises large things – the sky, and small things – a baby's cry. Elizabeth Alexander praises the day while keeping the history of what brought us to this point close. She speaks of the struggles of ordinary people, She says it plain: "that many have died for this day." She also leads the reader toward love, toward light.
And so, today's writing prompt is to praise.
Try to Praise the Mutilated World
by Adam Zagajewski
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
This poem can be found in Without End, his selected poems.
Praise the Rain
by Joy Harjo
Praise the rain, the seagull dive
the curl of plant, the raven talk -
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity -
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep -
Praise the mist, the warrior name
the earth eclipse, the fired leap -
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food -
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down -
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all -
Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we're led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo.
Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
What will you praise today?
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