We’re delighted you’re here and excited to embark on this journey of creative exploration through the joys and challenges of living with chronic physical and/or mental illness through the lens of poetry.
This idea has danced at the edges of my heart for more than a year, but it was L. L. Barkat’s goal for her thriving community at Tweetspeak Poetry – a poem in every heart, a story in every soul – that fanned this glowing ember into flame.
First, let me introduce you to Tweetspeak, a community eager to discover, engage, learn, create, and bring “beautiful work to light.” There is always something happening at Tweetspeak. From internationally celebrated poetry holidays like Poem on Your Pillow Day to poetry prompts, from workshops to a poetry delivery service called Every Day Poems, from literary infographics to Twitter poetry parties and a brand new By Heart Community https://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/a-poem-in-every-heart-a-story-in-every-soul/, from artist dates to their unique library of writing resources, Tweetspeak inspires readers to live richly and grow deeply, to master the art of “fine living.”
A Harvest of Grains
GRATITUDE – Chronic Joy Ministry’s November Poetry Prompt
Gratitude can elude us in the midst of chronic pain and illness, yet shrouded in fog or buried under a landslide of loss, tucked away in a dusty corner, or almost imperceptible through a torrent of tears, gratitude remains, woven into the fibers of our soul.
Though the festivities of the approaching holidays, can quickly overwhelm us, gratitude remains. Sometimes it is as seemingly insignificant as the breath in our lungs, or five seconds of peace on a chaotic day, or a golden slant of sunshine on a chilly autumn afternoon.
Gratitude can be the recognition that today, rising from bed is a victory, or that junk mail is a welcome relief from one more bill to pay.
Edward King (1829-1910), Bishop of Lincoln, wrote this about gratitude:
I will thank God for the pleasures given me through my senses, for the glory of the thunder, for the mystery of music, the singing of birds and the laughter of children. I will thank God for the pleasures of seeing, for the delights through colour, for the awe of the sunset, the beauty of flowers, the smile of friendship, and the look of love; for the changing beauty of the clouds, for the wild roses in the hedges, form the form and beauty of birds, for the leaves on the trees in spring and autumn for the witness of the leafless trees through the winter, teaching us that death is sleep and not destruction, for the sweetness of flowers and the scent of hay. Truly, oh Lord, the earth is full of Thy riches!
In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sings about her favorite, yet ordinary, everyday things.
Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
Edward King and Julie Andrews wrote and sang about ordinary, everyday things. Their lists are about noticing. About paying attention, about seeking the extraordinary beauty in the ordinary world around us.
In the book, Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer, Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney write:
The writer is aware of the miracle of a maple tree bark, even though she may be in a forest of maple trees. The writer is aware of the cracks in this one sidewalk he walks on, even though he is walking in a city of sidewalks. The writer is aware of the smell of salty pretzels, the beat of the sun at the high altitudes, the lonely cry of a train whistle across cornfields …
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote this about gratitude:
And now, when the clouds gather and the rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be cast down; let us not lose the savour of past mercies and past pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness.
Why the title A Harvest of Grains?
Grain is both ordinary – fields of grain undulating across America’s heartland as far as the eye can see, and extraordinary, for a single grain, like a single moment, begins to nourish both body and soul. A single grain reminds us to notice, to pause and to pay close attention to a sip, a bite, a breath, a kiss, a petal, a touch, a creak, a snap, a hum, a patter of rain.
Set aside a few minutes today to notice the sun slanting through a window; the cool, fresh water pouring from the tap; the smooth, crisp sheets fresh from the line; the nuzzle of a puppy; the laughter of a child; the smell of rich, black coffee; the creak of an oak floor; the sigh of the wind in the pines.
Close your eyes. Collect the moments. Let them flow through your fingers onto the page. String them together. Play with the line breaks, the sounds, and the rhythm of the words. Dance. Breathe. Sing. Write.
When your poem feels complete, consider submitting it to us for publication. Send poem, headshot, brief biography, and links to your social media and website (if applicable) to: email@example.com.
Each month, we’ll publish a poem from our community on both Chronic Joy’s website and in our monthly Oasis of Hope.
A Poem to Get You Started
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1901)
We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.
Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.
There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.
Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.
We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.
More Poetry Prompts
This month's Poetry Prompt explores the idea of thorns. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” Hope is Like a Harebell by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) Hope is like a harebell,...
Poetry allows us to explore chronic illness – the symptoms, confusion, loss, grief, and uncertainty, the moments, days, and small victories from a different perspective, to journey with words, follow where they lead, and to give voice to difficult emotions and challenging days, to touch the wellspring of our faith and discover God’s still small voice in new and deeper ways.
Cindee Snider Re
Author and Co-Founder at Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc.
Cindee is a wife of 28 years to the man she loves most in this world, mama of five world-shaking creatives (18-27), author of Discovering Hope, Finding Purpose, Embracing Worth and I Take You in Sickness and in Health, photographer, craver of quiet, lover of cotton, denim, Jesus and tea, and co-founder of Chronic Joy®. Cindee and four of her five kids have Ehlers-Danlos, dysautonomia, intractable migraine, and myriad co-existing conditions, through which they're learning the deeper the valley, the greater their capacity for joy.