Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing
your place in the family of things.
——from The Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
There are a large number of poems that could be offered as potentially healing. I’m offering here a handful that I’ve come across, and written about briefly, because they seem to me to resonate especially well with the process of healing, and because any one of them seems like it could be a springboard—a trampoline?—to one’s own writing.
I. Poems that conjure a healing place
Last Night As I Lay Sleeping by Antonio Machado
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats
Island of the Raped Women by Frances Driscoll
Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda
What I Want by Alicia Ostriker
II. Poems about a quest
The Journey by Mary Oliver
Instructions by Neil Gaiman
Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
III. Poems that might offer company during a difficult time
The Guest House by Rumi
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford
Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles
One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
The Armful by Robert Frost
The Spell by Marie Howe
Talking to Grief by Denise Levertov
Sweetness by Stephen Dunn
My Dead Friends by Marie Howe
III. Poems for looking at the world in new ways
The Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens
Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer by a group of women in a writing workshop
Shine by Joni Mitchell
If by Rudyard Kipling and Joni Mitchell
Desert Places by Robert Frost
Report from a Far Place by William Stafford
who knows if the moon’s a by e.e. cummings
The Snowman by Wallace Stevens
Notes in Bathrobe Pockets by Raymond Carver
A New Path to the Waterfall, a collection by Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
IV. Poems about the process of reading
Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
V. Poems for considering purpose
Every Craftsman by Rumi.
Poems recently posted are included below.
This is the world I want to live in. Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there. I’m rereading the beginning of this poem now, and I know how it ends—and I realize this is the moment that sets the story of the poem in motion. The...
I’ve been thinking about poems as prayers—or poems that could be prayers—and what that might mean. Prayer for Joy by Stuart Kestenbaum Prayer for the Dead by Stuart Kestenbaum I found these lines from the prologue to a volume of poetry, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, by Marie Howe: the men who’d hijacked the airplane prayed where the dead pilots had been sitting, and the passengers prayed from their seats —so many songs went up and out into the thinning air . . . It’s a...
Kestenbaum’s poem begins: The light snow started late last night and continued all night long while I slept and could hear it occasionally enter my sleep, where I dreamed my brother was alive again and possessing the beauty of youth, aware that he would be leaving again shortly I have had that dream—where I was with someone who is no longer here and inside the dream I knew that it wasn’t going to last. It was so lovely but at the same time the whole dream was shot through...