How to Love the World

Poems of Gratitude and Hope


By James Crews

Foreword by Ross Gay

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An Indie Poetry Bestseller!

What the world needs now
– featuring poems from inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith and more.

More and more people are turning to poetry as an antidote to divisiveness, negativity, anxiety, and the frenetic pace of life. How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope offers readers uplifting, deeply felt, and relatable poems by well-known poets from all walks of life and all parts of the US, including inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith, and others. The work of these poets captures the beauty, pleasure, and connection readers hunger for. How to Love the World, which contains new works by Ted Kooser, Mark Nepo, and Jane Hirshfield, invites readers to use poetry as part of their daily gratitude practice to uncover the simple gifts of abundance and joy to be found everywhere. With pauses for stillness and invitations for writing and reflection throughout, as well as reading group questions and topics for discussion in the back, this book can be used to facilitate discussion in a classroom or in any group setting.


Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens.

Brother David Steindl-Rast

Only the creative mind can make use of hope. Only a creative people can wield it.

Jericho Brown



Foreword, Ross Gay

The Necessity of Joy, James Crews

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Hope

Ted Kooser, Dandelion

Barbara Crooker, Promise

Amanda Gorman, At the Age of 18—Ode to Girls of Color

Dorianne Laux, In Any Event

Laura Grace Weldon, Astral Chorus

Garret Keizer, My Daughter's Singing

David Romtvedt, Surprise Breakfast

Ron Wallace, The Facts of Life

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Fifteen Years Later, I See How It Went

Kathryn Hunt, The Newborns

Christen Pagett, Shells

Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Bus Stop

January Gill O'Neil, Hoodie

Terri Kirby Erickson, Angel

Todd Davis, Thankful for Now

Reflective Pause: The Joy of Presence

Barbara Crooker, Autism Poem: The Grid

Diana Whitney, Kindergarten Studies the Human Heart

Gail Newman, Valentine's Day

Abigail Carroll, In Gratitude

Michelle Wiegers, Held Open

David Graham, Listening for Your Name

Heather Swan, Another Day Filled with Sleeves of Light,

Annie Lighthart, A Cure Against Poisonous Thought

Mary McCue, Forgiveness

Heather Lanier, Two Weeks After a Silent Retreat

Reflective Pause: The Kingdom at Hand

Jane Hirshfield, Today, When I Could Do Nothing

Laura Ann Reed, Red Thyme

Laura Foley, The Once Invisible Garden

James Crews, Down to Earth

Freya Manfred, Old Friends

Brad Peacock, Let It Rain

Molly Fisk, Against Panic

Naomi Shihab Nye, Over the Weather

Paula Gordon Lepp, Notions

Ellen Bass, Any Common Desolation

Reflective Pause: Returning to the World

Mark Nepo, Language, Prayer, and Grace

Jane Hirshfield, The Fish

Patricia Fargnoli, Reincarnate

Linda Hogan, Innocence

Farnaz Fatemi, Everything Is Made of Labor

Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Apple Blossoms

Nancy Miller Gomez, Growing Apples

Danusha Laméris, Aspen

Margaret Hasse, With Trees

Kim Stafford, Shelter in Place

Heather Newman, Missing Key

Michael Kiesow Moore, Climbing the Golden Mountain

Laura Foley, To See It

Jacqueline Jules, Unclouded Vision

Danusha Laméris, Improvement

Reflective Pause: Grateful for Small Victories

Jack Ridl, After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Wally Swist, Radiance

Kristen Case, Morning

Ross Gay, Wedding Poem

Jehanne Dubrow, Pledge

Angela Narciso Torres, Amores Perros

Noah Davis, Mending

Penny Harter, In the Dark

Nathan Spoon, A Candle in the Night

Francine Marie Tolf, Praise of Darkness

Judith Chalmer, An Essay on Age

Ted Kooser, Easter Morning

Andrea Potos, The Cardinal Reminds Me

Marjorie Saiser, When Life Seems a To-Do List

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi, Moon

Crystal S. Gibbins, Because the Night You Asked

Rob Hunter, September Swim

Joyce Sutphen, What to Do

William Stafford, Any Morning

Reflective Pause: Pieces of Heaven

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, How It Might Continue

Li-Young Lee, From Blossoms

Jessica Gigot, Motherhood

Sarah Freligh, Wondrous

Cathryn Essinger, Summer Apples

Lynne Knight, Third Year of My Mother's Dementia

Heather Swan, Rabbit

Dale Biron, Laughter

January Gill O'Neil, In the Company of Women

Alice Wolf Gilborn, Leaning to the Light

Andrea Potos, I Watched an Angel in the Emergency Room

Alberto Ríos, When Giving Is All We Have

Albert Garcia, Offering

Alison Luterman, Too Many to Count

Marjorie Saiser, If I Carry My Father

George Bilgere, Weather

Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Work

Reflective Pause: The Joy of Making

Danusha Laméris, Goldfinches

Connie Wanek, The Lesser Goldfinch

Tony Hoagland, The Word

Barbara Crooker, Tomorrow

Cynthia White, Quail Hollow

Laura Grace Weldon, Compost Happens

Joan Mazza, Part of the Landscape

Andrea Potos, Essential Gratitude

Reflective Pause: The Gratitude List

Laura Foley, Gratitude List

Katherine Williams, The Dog Body of My Soul

Katie Rubinstein, Scratch, Sniff

Mary Elder Jacobsen, Summer Cottage

Jane Kenyon, Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

Grace Bauer, Perceptive Prayer

Patricia Fontaine, Sap Icicles

Lucille Clifton, the lesson of the falling leaves

Ted Kooser, A Dervish of Leaves

James Crews, Winter Morning

Tracy K. Smith, The Good Life

Marjorie Saiser, Thanksgiving for Two

Reflective Pause: The Feast of Each Moment

Jeffrey Harrison, Nest

Ellen Bass, Getting into Bed on a December Night

Lisa Coffman, Everybody Made Soups

James Crews, Darkest Before Dawn

Brad Peacock, Rosary

Julie Murphy, To Ask

Tess Taylor, There Doesn't Need to Be a Poem

Amy Dryansky, Wingspan

Joy Harjo, Eagle Poem

Terri Kirby Erickson, What Matters

Mark Nepo, In Love with the World

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion

Poet Biographies


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Deep gratitude to the many people who helped to make this book a reality: the team at Storey Publishing, for agreeing to take a chance on a book of poetry, especially Deborah Balmuth, Liz Bevilacqua, Alee Moncy, Jennifer Travis, and Melinda Slaving, as well as Lauren Moseley at Algonquin Books for publicity support; Katie Rubinstein for making the connection and her beautiful work; everyone at A Network for Grateful Living, especially Kristi Nelson and Saoirse McClory, for their support of poetry; Brother David Steindl-Rast for his teachings on gratefulness, which we need now more than ever; Ted Kooser, for his enduring friendship, inspiration, and example of kindness; the late, great David Clewell, whose exuberant spirit not only made me fall in love with poetry, but also led me to future mentors Ron Wallace and Jesse Lee Kercheval; all of the poets included here for their generosity in sharing their work; Ross Gay for writing a foreword that is both a blessing and a poem in and of itself; Naomi Shihab Nye, Maria Popova, and Elizabeth Berg for their support of writing that makes us all feel more human; Garland Richmond, Diana Whitney, Heather Newman, Heather Swan, and Michelle Wiegers for essential support; my students at SUNY-Albany and Eastern Oregon University for giving me hope and serving as first readers; my husband, Brad Peacock, and our Crews and Peacock families, for reminding me every day why I'm so grateful to be alive.


I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about witness, about how witness itself is a kind of poetics, or poesis, which means making. By which I mean I have been wondering about how we make the world in our witnessing of it. Or maybe I have come to understand, to believe, how we witness makes our world. This is why attending to what we love, what we are astonished by, what flummoxes us with beauty, is such crucial work. Such rigorous work. Likewise, studying how we care, and are cared for, how we tend and are tended to, how we give and are given, is such necessary work. It makes the world. Witnessing how we are loved and how we love makes the world. Witness and study, I should say. Witness as study, I think I mean.

Truth is, we are mostly too acquainted with the opposite, with the wreckage. It commands our attention, and for good reason. We have to survive it. But even if we need to understand the wreckage to survive it, it needn't be the primary object of our study. The survival need be. The reaching and the holding need be. The here, have this need be. The come in, you can stay here need be. The let's share it all need be. The love need be. The care need be. That which we are made by, held by, need be. Who's taken us in need be. Who's saved the seed need be. Who's planted the milkweed need be. Who's saved the water need be. Who's saved the forest need be. The forest need be. The water. The breathable air. That which witnessed us forth need be. How we have been loved need be. How we are loved need be.

How we need need be, too. Our radiant need. Our luminous and mycelial need. Our need immense and immeasurable. Our need absolute need be. And that study, that practice, that witness, is called gratitude. Our gratitude need be.

This is what I want to study. This is with whom.

Ross Gay

The Necessity of Joy

One day a few weeks ago, I woke up in a terrible mood. I've always been a morning person, relishing those early hours when the world is still asleep, before emails, texts, and the rest of my distractions take over. I love the ritual of making pour-over coffee for my husband and myself, inhaling the fragrant steam that curls up from the grounds as I pour on the boiling water. Yet this day, I couldn't shake my annoyance as I smashed a pat of cold, hard butter onto my toast, tearing a hole in the bread. I shook my head and scowled, then looked over at my husband who smiled. "What?" I said. He just stared deeply into my eyes and asked, "Are you happy to be alive today?" I glared at him at first, but I also let his question stop my mind. And in that gap, a rush of gratitude swept in. Yes, I was happy to be alive, happy to be standing in the kitchen next to the man I love, about to begin another day together. Happy to have coffee, food, and a warm place to live. Happy even to feel that dark mood swirling through me because it was also evidence of my aliveness.

Are you happy to be alive? The poems gathered in this book each ask, in their own ways, that same question, which has more relevance now than ever. As Brother David Steindl-Rast, the founder of A Network for Grateful Living, has famously pointed out: "In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy." Paying attention to our lives is the first step toward gratitude and hope, and the poems in How to Love the World model for us the kind of mindfulness that is the gateway to a fuller, more sustainable happiness that can be called joy. Whether blessing a lawn full of common dandelions, or reminding us, as Tony Hoagland does, to "sit out in the sun and listen," these poets know that hope, no matter how slight it might seem, is as pressing a human need right now as food, water, shelter, or rest. We may survive without it, but we cannot thrive.

During these uncertain and trying times, we tell ourselves that joy is an indulgence we can no longer afford. And we've become all too familiar with the despair filling the airwaves and crowding our social media feeds, leading to what psychologists now call empathy or compassion fatigue, whereby we grow numb and disconnected from the suffering of others. We want to stay informed about what's going on in the world, yet we also know that absorbing so much negativity leaves us drained and hopeless. We know it's robbing us of the ability to be present to our own experience and grateful for something as simple as the moon, which is here, as Lahab Assef Al-Jundi points out, "to illuminate our illusion" of separateness from one another.

For many years, reading and writing poetry has been my personal source of delight, an antidote to the depression that can spring up out of nowhere. I now carve out what I call "soul time" for myself each day, making space for silence and reflection, even if it is just five or ten minutes, even if I have to wake up a little earlier to do it. The time I take to pause and read a favorite poem from a book, or jot down some small kindness from the day before, can utterly transform my mindset for the rest of the day. I invite you to use each poem in How to Love the World in a similar way, to make reading (and writing, if you wish) part of your own daily gratitude practice. Throughout the collection, I've also included reflective pauses, with specific suggestions for writing practices based upon the poems. When you encounter one of these, you may simply read that poem and reflection, then move on. Or you might keep a notebook nearby and stop to write, letting the guiding questions lead you more deeply into your own encounters with gratitude, hope, and joy. I encourage you to use any of these poems that spark something as jumping-off points for a journal entry, story, or poem of your own.

I trust in the necessity and pleasure of all kinds of creativity—from cooking a meal to fixing a car to sketching in the margins of a grocery list—but poetry is an art form especially suited to our challenging times. It helps us dive beneath the surface of our lives, and enter a place of wider, wilder, more universal knowing. And because poetry is made of the everyday material of language, we each have access to its ability to hold truths that normal conversation simply can't contain. When you find


  • "How to Love the World is for every one of us who welcomes or misses the fullness of joy and the wholeness of days." — Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate, Poetry Foundation

    "You’ll find lots of poets to love within these pages… this book is exactly what we need in these times – or in any." — Elizabeth Berg, author of I'll Be Seeing You and The Story of Arthur Truluv

    "The anthology represents a wide range of poetic voices revealing gratitude as an essential emotion that is simple and complex, all around us but also elusive." — The Boston Globe

    "This uplifting collection of poems from masterful poets (Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more) will not only move you but also remind you that joy can be found during times that feel dark. There are some that are tinted in longing (like “Bus Stop” by Laure-Anne Bosselaar) and some that serve as a beautiful reminder of appreciation (“Thankful For Now” by Todd Davis). The visceral, weighty words from these poets invoke meaning in things that may seem meaningless, pushing us to slow down and reflect." — BuzzFeed

    "Readers looking for poetic antidotes to today’s chronic anxiety and frenetic news cycle might enjoy turning to this new and highly readable collection. Spend some time with joy and gratitude through deeply felt work from some of poetry’s most trusted voices including inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, Joy Harjo, Tracy K. Smith, Ellen Bass, Ted Kooser, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jane Hirschfield, and others often featured in the pages of Orion. Interspersed with invitations to write and reflect, this book is designed for discussion and is classroom-ready." — Orion Magazine

On Sale
Mar 23, 2021
Page Count
208 pages

James Crews

James Crews

About the Author

James Crews is the editor of the best-selling anthologies, The Path to Kindness and How to Love the World, which has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, in the Boston Globe, and the Washington PostHis poems have appeared in the New York Times MagazinePloughsharesThe New Republic, and The Christian Century. He collaborated with former US poet laureate Ted Kooser on “American Life in Poetry,” which reaches millions of readers across the world. Crews holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD in writing and literature from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He teaches poetry at the University at Albany and lives with his husband in Shaftsbury, Vermont. 

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