Probably not long after Gutenberg slapped some ink on a page, we got the aphorism not to judge a book by its cover.


Generally true.


But even if the collection of poems in How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope edited by James Crews didn’t epitomize the craft and power of poetry, the cover alone is enough beauty to warrant owning a copy.

Still—the poems.


In the intro, Crews asks “Are you happy to be alive?” and then goes on to explain, “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.” (2)


Poetry, according to Crews, “is an artform 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” (3).


That is poetry in itself.


Somewhere around the time my youngest son was in first or second grade, he’s a junior in college now, I found one of his picture books where he had flagged his favorite pages with sticky notes and tabs. Looking at my copy of How to Love the World, I’m reminded where he learned that. 


I haven’t tabbed every page, but it sure looks like I have. Early in the book, I tabbed “At The Age of 18—Ode to Girls of Color” by Amanda Gorman. (8) Sitting in the doctor’s office I tabbed “Over the Weather” by Naomi Shihab Nye. 


And when I tabbed “Held Open” by Michelle Wiegers, the opening lines transported me back to the high school days of that son who tabbed the pages of that picture book.

After the band concert we filed out

of the high school auditorium

where the door seemingly stood open 


When I got to the end of the poem, these words from Wieger jumped out to me. 

the stunning runs of the flutes, which caught 

my breath, my son’s steady rhythms 

still pounding in my chest

as I stepped out into the night air (32)


Weiger had me reflecting on the things I didn’t know I’d missed—things like that very first middle school band concert of squeaks and missed notes to the last high school concert in tuxes looking too much like adults ready for the next stage of life.


But even in the things we miss, we can find gratefulness, which is why I also tabbed “Winter Morning” by James Crews. 

When I can no longer say thank you

for this new day and the waking into it,

for the cold scrape of the kitchen chair

and the ticking of the space heater glowing

orange as it warms the floor near my feet,

I know it is because I’ve been fooled again

by the selfish, unruly man who lives in me

and believes he deserves only safety

and comfort (137)


April may be national poetry month, but poems like the ones in this collection are perfect for every day of the year, which we can all be grateful for.


Download the mini lesson below and have students practice writing "insignificant" poems. 



Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.