The History of Literature #361 – Five Glimpses of Gratitude (Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sharon Olds, Henry David Thoreau, WS Merwin)

361 Five Glimpses of Gratitude (Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sharon Olds, Henry David Thoreau, WS Merwin)

Feeling grateful, Jacke rummages through the literary storage trunk to find works on gratitude by five poets and essayists: Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sharon Olds, Henry David Thoreau, and W.

S. Merwin. Enjoy!

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The History of Literature #240 – More Thoreau | Experiencing Nature (with Nina Shengold)

“We can never get enough of nature,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1854. “I suppose that what in other men is religion is in me love of nature.” A century and a half later, author Nina Shengold left her desk behind for her own journey into the natural world, following a plan to walk along the Ashokan Reservoir in upstate New York every day for a year. When she returned home after each outing she recorded her observations; her book Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days was the result. In this episode, she joins Jacke to talk about the differences between her book and Thoreau’s Walden, the writers who inspired her, and how the experience of writing about the outside world each day affected her, giving her a better understanding of both the person she was and the person she wanted to be.

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Music Credits:

“Piano Between” and “And Awaken” by Kevin MacLeod (

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History of Literature #111 – The Americanest American – Ralph Waldo Emerson


In 1984, the literary scholar Harold Bloom had this to say about Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Emerson is the mind of our climate, the principal source of the American difference in poetry, criticism and pragmatic post-philosophy…. Emerson, by no means the greatest American writer… is the inescapable theorist of all subsequent American writing. From his moment to ours, American authors either are in his tradition, or else in a counter-tradition originating in opposition to him.” Who was Emerson? How did he become so influential? What did he unlock in American literature? And what can we take from his works today?

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Terrible Poem Breakdown: An Apologia (and What They Knew #16-24)

Yesterday we started the new series Terrible Poem Breakdown, in which I criticized a Terrible Poem primarily for its negativity. I’ve had it pointed out to me that this may be somewhat hypocritical, coming from me. This blog has not exactly been moondreams and rainbows.

Readers, I’ve been trying to be encouraging! And yet I have conveyed some very bleak thoughts indeed, especially in the What They Knew series. But isn’t that just being real? There’s a fine line between a pessimist and a realist! Sometimes no line at all!

So in the holiday spirit, I’m going to run through the entire next batch of What They Knews. I will look at each of them, examine them for signs of negativity, and assess whether they should be released upon the world or whether they should be buried in my What They Knew Discard vault.

And along the way, I hope to get a better sense of myself. Me, Jacke Wilson, clear-eyed purveyor of uplifting sentiment…  Continue reading