TCC Reads: “A List of Praises” by Anne Porter

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jump rope

The poet Anne Porter was born in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Raised Methodist she converted to Catholicism in her 40s and was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. She was educated at Bryn Mawr and Radcliffe, and raised five children with her husband Fairfield Porter, a painter. While raising a family she had to pursue her writing on the side. When her husband died in 1975, she began to write more seriously. As she told the Wall Street Journal: “I remember realizing that I was alone, and I’d have to be more organized. I had these poems, and I thought that it would be worthwhile working on them. I started to write.” Her first collection, An Altogether Different Language (1994), published when she was 83, was named a finalist for the National Book Award.

Anne Porter typing

Her other volume of poetry is Living Things: Collected Poems (2006). Porter once said, “People don’t use their creativity as they get older. They think this is supposed to be the end of this and the end of that. But you can’t always be so sure that it is the end.” She died in 2011 with her family. David Shapiro writes of Anne Porter, “She is an American religious poet of stature who reminds us that the idea of the holy is still possible for us.”  Read a poem for Thanksgiving, “A List of Praises” here:

A List of Praises

by Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.
Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.