Sunday Scribblings: Solace

Sherman Creek near Canyon Creek Campground, northeast Washington

Where do I go to find comfort? Where do I find solace? I often find comfort walking along a creek like the one pictured above. Lately I have found solace in reading poetry. After departing from the Writing Retreat in June I have immersed myself in exploring poetry. I have mostly been reading contemporary American poets. Many of the poets I have gravitated to focus on common everyday things in life. I am moved when a poem captures a moment with clarity that is unforgettable. I have explored common themes and topics, use of word choice, the emotional impact the poet's words, and the sound of the language.

I find solace in poetry when I find a specific one that helps me at a time when I need comfort. Judith Viorst's words helped me this week when I read The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life which you can find here. It reassured me that I am on the right track for finding pleasure in my life.

I just read a small volume entitled Poems for Life: Famous People Select Their Favorite Poem and Say Why it Inspires Them. I learned of the book by doing a search of Anna Quindlen online recently. She wrote the introduction. It was compiled by a class of fifth graders in New York City classroom. Quindlen said, "Of all the words that have stuck to the ribs of my soul, poetry has been the most filling." I agree with the statement.
E.L. Doctorow chose a poem called A Blessing for this collection. He knew James Wright when they were students at Kenyon College. This is the poem he chose composed by Wright:

A Blessing
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her main falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Also in this little volume Geraldine Ferraro and Diane Sawyer chose If by Rudyard Kipling. Yo-Yo Ma's favorite was Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats because " beauty has its own truth." I found solace in reading why each of these New Yorkers chose their favorite poem. I would find it difficult to chose a favorite.
I am drawn to a variety of poets. Lately I have read anthologies so I can get a mix of poets like Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Ted Kooser, and William Stafford. I have also found poems I like by Carol Muske, Liz Rosenberg, Marge Piercy, and Wislawa Szymborska.
You can link to many poems I have posted on my label poetry to the right.

In closing one poem that always gives me comfort is Billy Collins' Forgetfulness. Who has not drawn a blank on a person's name you have known for years, or the red flower growing in the window box? This animated video reading of the poem uses visuals effectively to reinforce the theme. Take time to listen to his words and watch the video . Again, take solace in the fact that an everyday thing such as forgetting can happen to all of us.

To find other Sunday Scribblings on Solace go here.


  1. Oh, I loved the Billy Collins poem! Otto stood behind me chuckling as I played it.

    I have always found comfort in poetry. Not in Rudyard Kipling's IF, but,yes, in his Recessional: "Farflung our banners fade away/ On dune and headland sinks the fire..." Don't ask me to recite the rest of it, though. That's one of those memories that is taking a loooong vacation!

  2. I think many bloggers find solace in writing of all types. I enjoyed your post.

  3. I am really enjoying the poetry you've been sharing. Forgetfulness is wonderful... I'm talking about the poem of course!

    What I really wanted to say is "I love your new blog format and colors!" I wandered all the way down your sidebar to the photo at the very bottom of the page. It's a very soothing choice of colors. I always enjoy stoppin by!

  4. Oh yes, the solace in poetry - in reading it, in hearing it, in writing it. I feel very blessed that I've been able to get tickets to go hear Billy Collins read on Tuesday evening with Seamus Heaney. - My two favourite poets, both with such voices! Thanks for the little preview!

  5. Dear friend--I always come to your blog to feed my soul those wonderful appetizers of poetry and your thoughts, sorta like bruchetta or cucumber sandwiches. I loved the Billy Collins poem and now I don't feel quite so despicable when I have to re-read my parents' obits because I can't remember the exact date they passed.
    Thank you for this post!
    p.s. My cosmos are brave but struggling :O)

  6. A few things:

    I think your source of solace is healthier and more sustaining than a casino. I'll have to get back to creeks around here.

    James Wright and Richard Hugo went to the University of Washington together and were good friends. Hugo wrote about their friendship and what he had to endure to remain friends with James Wright.

    "A Blessing" is one of those poems that has not only lived with me for over thirty years, I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it, who read it, and how blown away I was. (Whitworth College, Phil Eaton reading it in Core 150)

    Likewise, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard David Wagoner read his poem "Lost".
    It's a poem I've come back to countless times for its beauty and for its insight. It's a poem Eileen (my first wife) and loved together. We heard Wagoner read it at EWU during the spring semester of our sophomore year at NIC (1974).

  7. Billy Collins is a favorite - he has a wonderful take on life, everyday things and lost causes. He's a pleasure to listen to, as well. Enjoyed reading/exploring your post!

  8. i so enjoyed the billy collins reading - i enjoy poetry so much more when i hear it read - i find i'm able to absorb it better that way --- very nice post!!!

  9. What a thoughtful and lovely mix of images and poetry I found here. Solace comes from sharing writings like these. Thank you!


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