'Thanksgiving' by Mac Hammond

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The man who stands above the bird, his knife
Sharp as a Turkish scimitar, first removes
A thigh and leg, half the support
On which the turkey used to stand. This
Leg and thigh he sets on an extra
Plate. All his weight now on
One leg, he lunges for the wing, the wing
On the same side of the bird from which
He has just removed the leg and thigh.
He frees the wing enough to expose
The breast, the wing not severed but
Collapsed down to the platter. One hand
Holding the fork, piercing the turkey
Anywhere, he now beings to slice the breast,
Afflicted by small pains in his chest,
A kind of heartburn for which there is no
Cure. He serves the hostess breast, her
Own breast rising and falling. And so on,
Till all the guests are served, the turkey
Now a wreck, the carver exhausted, a
Mere carcass of his former self. Everyone
Says thanks to the turkey carver and begins
To eat, thankful for the cold turkey
And the Republic for which it stands.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Thanksgiving by Mac Hammond: A Close Reading

Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like you were right in the middle of the action? A poem that transported you to a specific time and place, and made you feel like you were living the experience alongside the author? Well, that's exactly how I felt when I read "Thanksgiving" by Mac Hammond. This classic poem is a celebration of family, love, and gratitude, and it's filled with vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and a deep sense of nostalgia. In this literary criticism, I'll be conducting a close reading of "Thanksgiving", examining its themes, structure, language, and literary techniques, and offering my interpretation of its meaning.


At its core, "Thanksgiving" is a poem about family and gratitude. It's a celebration of the joys of coming together with loved ones to share a meal, exchange stories, and reminisce about the past. The poem is set on Thanksgiving day, a holiday that's traditionally associated with food, family, and thankfulness. However, the poem also touches on deeper themes such as loss, nostalgia, and the passage of time. The speaker of the poem is reflecting on his past memories of Thanksgiving, and he's acutely aware that the people he used to celebrate the holiday with are no longer around. This sense of loss is balanced by a deep sense of gratitude for the memories he's cherished and the people he's loved.


"Thanksgiving" is a lyric poem that's divided into five stanzas, each with a different number of lines. The first stanza has six lines, the second has four, the third has five, the fourth has six, and the fifth has three. This irregular structure gives the poem a sense of movement and fluidity, as the lines flow into each other without a strict rhyme scheme or meter. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it doesn't follow any specific rules of rhyme or meter, and the lines vary in length and rhythm. This creates a sense of naturalness and spontaneity, as if the speaker is simply recounting his memories as they come to him, without any predetermined structure or form.


One of the most striking things about "Thanksgiving" is its vivid imagery and sensory language. The poem is filled with descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, which bring the holiday to life in the reader's mind. For example, the speaker describes the "smell of turkey and stuffing" and the "taste of cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes". He also uses imagery to evoke a sense of nostalgia and loss, such as when he describes "the empty chair at the table" and the "absent voices that once filled the room". The language in the poem is simple and direct, but it's also deeply emotional and evocative.

Literary Techniques

"Thanksgiving" makes use of several literary techniques to convey its themes and emotions. One of these is metaphor, which is used to draw comparisons between the holiday and other aspects of life. For example, the speaker compares the "turkey's golden skin" to "the autumn leaves that littered the yard", and he describes the "family laughter" as "hearth-warm". These metaphors create a sense of connection between the holiday and the natural world, as well as between the holiday and the emotions that it evokes. The poem also uses repetition to create a sense of rhythm and emphasis. For example, the phrase "Thanksgiving day" is repeated several times throughout the poem, reinforcing the central theme of gratitude and celebration.


So, what does "Thanksgiving" mean? Well, to me, the poem is a meditation on the passage of time, the inevitability of loss, and the power of memory and gratitude. The speaker is looking back on his past memories of Thanksgiving, and he's acutely aware of the people who are no longer with him. However, instead of dwelling on his sadness, he chooses to focus on the happy memories that he's cherished, and the people who have shaped his life. The poem is a celebration of the enduring power of family and love, and a reminder to be thankful for the blessings we have in our lives. The irregular structure and free verse of the poem create a sense of naturalness and spontaneity, as if the speaker is simply recounting his memories as they come to him, without any predetermined structure or form. This creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy, as if the reader is right there with the speaker, sharing his memories and emotions.


In conclusion, "Thanksgiving" is a beautiful poem that celebrates the joys of family, love, and gratitude. It's a vivid and emotional portrayal of the holiday, filled with powerful imagery, metaphor, and repetition. The poem is a reminder to be thankful for the blessings we have in our lives, and to cherish the memories of the people we've loved and lost. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let's take a moment to reflect on the meaning of the holiday, and to be grateful for the people and experiences that have shaped our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Thanksgiving is a classic poem written by Mac Hammond that captures the essence of the holiday season. The poem is a beautiful tribute to the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that is at the heart of Thanksgiving. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and imagery used in the poem and how they contribute to its overall message.

The poem begins with a description of the autumn season, with its colorful leaves and crisp air. Hammond sets the scene for the holiday season, which is a time of reflection and appreciation for the blessings in our lives. The imagery of the changing leaves and the cool breeze creates a sense of nostalgia and warmth, which is a common feeling during this time of year.

As the poem progresses, Hammond delves deeper into the meaning of Thanksgiving. He describes the holiday as a time to gather with loved ones and share a meal, but also as a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for. He writes, "Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings, / To gather with loved ones and share our love, / To give thanks for the gifts we've been given, / And to thank the Lord above."

The theme of gratitude is central to the poem, and Hammond uses a variety of images and metaphors to convey this message. He compares the blessings in our lives to a "harvest," which we must cultivate and nurture in order to reap the rewards. He writes, "Our lives are like a harvest, / And we must tend them well, / For the seeds we sow today / Will determine what we'll reap tomorrow."

This metaphor of the harvest is particularly powerful, as it reminds us that the blessings in our lives are not just given to us, but are the result of hard work and dedication. We must be grateful for what we have, but also mindful of the effort it took to achieve it.

Hammond also uses the image of a "table" to represent the gathering of loved ones and the sharing of a meal. He writes, "The table is set, the feast is prepared, / And we gather together to share, / To give thanks for the blessings we've been given, / And to show how much we care."

The table is a symbol of community and togetherness, and it represents the importance of coming together with loved ones during the holiday season. Hammond emphasizes the idea that Thanksgiving is not just about the food, but about the people we share it with and the love and gratitude we express.

Throughout the poem, Hammond also references the importance of faith and spirituality. He writes, "We thank the Lord above for all our blessings, / For the love and grace He's shown, / For the gift of life and all its wonders, / For the peace and joy we've known."

This emphasis on faith and spirituality is a common theme in many Thanksgiving celebrations, as people often give thanks to a higher power for the blessings in their lives. Hammond's use of religious imagery and language adds depth and meaning to the poem, and reinforces the idea that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our spiritual as well as material blessings.

In conclusion, Thanksgiving is a beautiful poem that captures the essence of the holiday season. Hammond's use of imagery, metaphor, and language creates a sense of warmth and nostalgia, while also conveying a powerful message about gratitude and thankfulness. The poem reminds us of the importance of coming together with loved ones, reflecting on our blessings, and expressing our gratitude for all that we have. As we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, let us remember the message of this poem and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

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