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How a search for kindness grew into an anthology of poems

by Elizabeth Lund, CSM Contributor from United States

147902James Crews edited “The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy.”Courtesy of Brad Peacock
April 25, 2022

Is kindness a quaint, ineffectual virtue? For poet and editor James Crews, the answer is a resounding no. As he demonstrates throughout “The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy,” a follow-up collection to his bestselling anthology “How to Love the World,” kindness can be life-altering. It may also help people find a way forward during the most difficult days.  

Like its predecessor, “The Path to Kindness” presents more than 100 uplifting poems by acclaimed writers, including Ted Kooser, Ellen Bass, Tracy K. Smith, and Joy Harjo (the current U.S. poet laureate). The collection also features prompts for reflection or journaling, topics for reading-group discussion, and author biographical notes. 

In a recent Zoom interview, Crews explained that he began planning “The Path to Kindness” during the first full year of the pandemic. Fear of COVID-19 was rampant at that time, and many people viewed anyone outside their household as dangerous. 

To counter this negative thinking, Crews made a practice of finding moments of kindness in his daily life. “This was just smiling at someone during a walk in the park or catching a glimmer in someone’s eyes when we were passing each other in the grocery store, just really small moments of connection and acknowledgment and connection to the natural world,” he says. “Out of that practice grew a desire to collect poems that suggest the world could still be a joyful, connected place, even at a time when we were more disconnected and maybe despairing more than we ever had before.” 

Over several months, Crews collected pieces for the book intuitively, choosing work he most needed to read or hear.

One poem he was drawn to immediately was “Small Kindnesses,” by Danusha Laméris, which emphasizes the inherent goodness in people and how positive interactions accumulate over hours and days. “Laméris’ poem went viral after the presidential election in 2016,” Crews notes.

Two other poems he chose early on were “Kindness” and “Red Brocade,” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

“‘Kindness’ has been a real touchstone for readers in the past few years and became the most downloaded poem from the Academy of American Poets website during the pandemic,” he says.

Page created on 4/27/2022 1:04:18 PM

Last edited 4/27/2022 1:17:13 PM

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