Verses vs. Virus: What These Poets Laureate Are Thankful For

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Verses vs. Virus: What These Poets Laureate Are Thankful For

And in Minnesota, Joyce Sutphen gave thanks for

snow that comes down from Canada
covering the leaves we didn’t rake
and how sometimes after that, we
get a heat wave and a second chance
to put things right in the world

Not all states responded. The New York Times request came with some prosaic conditions — 100 words or less on a newspaper deadline, a tall order for an exacting art form. Some states have no poet laureate. New Jersey abolished the post in 2003 amid controversy, and Idaho replaced it in the 1980s with a broader “writer-in-residence” appointment. The last full-time poet to hold that job, Diane Raptosh, who has also served as poet laureate of Boise, offered that state’s poem.

Still other states were between poets. In California, Mr. Gioia’s term ended in 2018 and the governor has yet to appoint a successor. Illinois had been without an official poet since 2017; we received submissions from its last laureate and the poet who succeeded him on Wednesday.

But the many writers who did respond reflected a widespread, if weary, appreciation, both for regional grit and more universal blessings. Many wrote, in these socially distanced times, of the humanity and fellowship around them.

Hawaii’s poet was grateful for “tight-knit island communities,” Wyoming’s for “neighbor helping neighbor / despite long distances,” and Alabama’s for a state where people “rally to help each other out in times of crisis.”

And North Carolina’s for “North Carolinians” and “the many ways we have gathered together to take care of each other.” And South Dakota’s for “food, resources, / each other — love and fear’s first real test.”

Paisley Rekdal of Utah wrote of “something unusual: crowds in the canyons.” Bobby LeFebre of Colorado reached out on social media to crowdsource that state’s thanks for “love, familia, health, work, creator, community, cultura / resilience, art, abolitionists, education, imagination, clarity / life, truth, weed,” and much more.

Beth Ann Fennelly of Mississippi was “grateful to be counted on: One Mississippi, Two. Grateful for the word y’all. Grateful for the emphatic all y’all.”

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