An old friend, now dead, used to paraphrase Auden, though I’m certain Mike had never read a word of the poet’s work: “May your thinks be thanks.” Mike was fond of slogans, “mantras” he called them, that could be annoying when volunteered too glibly or often, but he had earned the right to buoy his spirits and, occasionally, mine. His life had been more difficult than most, thanks to family, mental illness, drugs and alcohol. By the time I met him, more than forty years ago, he had a good job, friends and something to offer others.
Auden’s line in “Lullaby,” published posthumously in Thank You, Fog (1974), is “Let your last thinks all be thanks.” I mentally amend “and first,” just to be comprehensive. Most of us never get what we deserve, and for that we ought to be grateful. I remembered Mike and Auden when reading “The Renaissance,” a poem Aaron Poochigian posted on Twitter. His epigraph is from Auden’s “In Memory of W. B.Yeats”: “In the prison of his days / Teach the free man how to praise.” Poochigian’s refrain is “give thanks, give thanks,” as in:
“for monkey bars and pranks
and the high of all-out play,
give thanks, give thanks.”
One of Poochigian’s trademarks is disciplined exaltation. His poems have a cockeyed slant. “The Renaissance” begins “For sun and thawing rigor / in manners, stances and features, / for giddy little creatures . . .” – a list of things he’s grateful for. Consider a duller, more cliched catalog: good health, a steady paycheck, marital bliss, blah, blah, blah. Good things, but who cares? Poochigian includes “Cokes and Sauerkraut franks.” In his tweet he writes:
“Everyone I know is in a crappy mood on this rainy Monday, so here’s something uplifting.
“Let’s hope poetry makes something happen.”
A nice allusion to the Yeats poem cited earlier: “For poetry makes nothing happen.”