Admittedly, not everyone sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinner is going to be recalling Yiddish-speaking immigrant ancestors, ranting about social injustice, or invoking Allen Ginsberg — and doing all of that using an ancient Arabic poetic form. That’s why we need Alicia Ostriker, a great American poet and thinker who was awarded the Jewish Book Award in 2009.
Using the “ghazal” form of Arabic poetry, which strings together pithy two-line meditations with a common refrain, she covers the vast territory of what America means to her. Curiously, Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America,” mentioned here in the fourth verse, also uses the poem’s title as a refrain, but Ginsberg’s approach is Whitmanesque, perhaps biblical. Ostriker ventures further out of the Western world. However, a certain comic strain is common to both poets. Happy Thanksgiving!