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Healing Poetry

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 chosen, 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

Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

III. Poems that might offer company during a difficult time

The Guest House by Rumi

A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford

Satellite Call by Sara Bareilles

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

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.