Poems of Healing

Edited by Karl Kirchwey
Look inside
Hardcover
$15.95 US
4.37"W x 6.48"H x 0.75"D  
On sale Mar 30, 2021 | 240 Pages | 978-1-101-90825-9
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
A remarkable Pocket Poets anthology of poems from around the world and across the centuries about illness and healing, both physical and spiritual.

From ancient Greece and Rome up to the present moment, poets have responded with sensitivity and insight to the troubles of the human body and mind. Poems of Healing gathers a treasury of such poems, tracing the many possible journeys of physical and spiritual illness, injury, and recovery, from John Donne’s “Hymne to God My God, In My Sicknesse” and Emily Dickinson’s “The Soul has Bandaged moments” to Eavan Boland’s “Anorexic,” from W.H. Auden’s “Miss Gee” to Lucille Clifton’s “Cancer,” and from D.H. Lawrence’s “The Ship of Death” to Rafael Campo’s “Antidote” and Seamus Heaney’s “Miracle.” Here are poems from around the world, by Sappho, Milton, Baudelaire, Longfellow, Cavafy, and Omar Khayyam; by Stevens, Lowell, and Plath; by Zbigniew Herbert, Louise Bogan, Yehuda Amichai, Mark Strand, and Natalia Toledo. Messages of hope in the midst of pain—in such moving poems as Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” George Herbert’s “The Flower,” Wisława Szymborska’s “The End and the Beginning,” Gwendolyn Brooks’ “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story” and Stevie Smith’s “Away, Melancholy”—make this the perfect gift to accompany anyone on a journey of healing.

Everyman's Library pursues the highest production standards, printing on acid-free cream-colored paper, with full-cloth cases with two-color foil stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, European-style half-round spines, and a full-color illustrated jacket.
 Foreword

QUINTUS SERENUS SAMMONICUS “Abracadabra”
 
THE ILLNESS
C. K. WILLIAMS Really
EMILY DICKINSON “The Soul has Bandaged moments –”
MARK STRAND “The sickness of angels is nothing new
ANNE FINCH The Spleen
CHARLES BAUDELAIRE Spleen (IV)
WILLIAM COWPER Lines Written During a Period of Insanity
SPENCER REECE From Hartford
CAROL ANN DUFFY The Virgin’s Memo
DOUGLAS DUNN From Disenchantments
D. A. POWELL “they hear the clapping of the bell and are afraid”
GJERTRUD SCHNACKENBERG From The Light Gray Soil
KAY RYAN Among English Verbs
ROBERT PINSKY Dying
EAVAN BOLAND Anorexic
GWYNETH LEWIS “Talk With a Headache”
SAPPHO TWO TRANSLATIONS (Fragment 31)
THOM GUNN The Man With Night Sweats
C. P. CAVAFY The Funeral of Sarpedon
KEITH DOUGLAS John Anderson
DAVID CONSTANTINE Pity
MAY SWENSON Staring at the Sea on the Day of the Death of Another
 
THE DIAGNOSIS
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA Clothes
W. H. AUDEN Miss Gee
WILLIAM LOGAN Little Compton
ALISSA VALLES Decision Tree
RAFAEL CAMPO Antidote
GAVIN EWART Sonnet: Intermittent Claudication
JANE KENYON Prognosis
LUCILLE CLIFTON Cancer
LUCILLE CLIFTON 1994
C. K. WILLIAMS Diagnosis
NICOLE SEALEY medical history
J. D. MCCLATCHY My Mammogram
ADRIENNE RICH Power
TOM PAULIN Under the Eyes
JULIA ALVAREZ “Are we all ill with acute loneliness”
EMILY DICKINSON “A Wounded Deer – leaps highest–”
 
THE REMEDY
ROBERT PINSKY ABC
VASKO POPA Before the Game
VASKO POPA After the Game
MASAOKA SHIKI Eight Haiku
ZBIGNIEW HERBERT Breviary
MARCELLUS EMPIRICUS From De Medicamentis
JANE KENYON From Having It Out With Melancholy
C. P. CAVAFY Melancholy of Jason Kleander, Poet in Kommagini, AD 595
NATALIA TOLEDO The Flower That Drops Its Petals
MIROSLAV HOLUB “Although a poem arises . . .’
MIROSLAV HOLUB “Although a poem is . . .”
ADRIENNE RICH Calibrations
GREG DELANTY The Green Room
MARK STRAND “When after a long silence one picks up the pen”
LOUISE GLUCK A Slip of Paper
C. P. CAVAFY Kleitos’ Illness
JOHN DONNE Hymne to God My God, In My Sicknesse
D. H. LAWRENCE From The Ship of Death
ADA LIMON The Raincoat
MARY JO SALTER Hot Water Bottle
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU A Receipt to Cure the Vapors
KARL KIRCHWEY Blood and Light
ALISSA VALLES Pain Fellow
RAFAEL CAMPO From Phone Messages on Call
KATE DANIELS Support Group
AIMEE GRUNBERGER Chemotherapy
J. D. MCCLATCHY From Radiation Days
MAX RITVO Poem To My Litter
JOHN DOWLAND Come, Heavy Sleep
DONALD HALL Deathwork
OMAR KHAYYAM From The Ruba’iyat
CHARLES BAUDELAIRE Invitation to the Voyage
MARGARET ATWOOD Up
STEVIE SMITH Away, Melancholy
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS “My own heart let me more have pity on”
 
THE HEALING
LUCILLE CLIFTON blessing the boats
ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI Try to Praise the Mutilated World
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA The End and the Beginning
RUDAKI On the Death of the Amir’s Father
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Song: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”
DYLAN THOMAS A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London
EAVAN BOLAND Quarantine
ADRIENNE RICH From a Survivor
ROSANNA WARREN For Chiara
DEBORA GREGER Black Silk
SEAMUS HEANEY Miracle
CHARLOTTE MEW On the Asylum Road
LOUISE BOGAN Evening in the Sanitarium
SYLVIA PLATH Tulips
ROBERT LOWELL Home After Three Months Away
EMILY DICKINSON “After great pain, a formal feeling comes–”
HENRI COLE Morning Glory
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS Carrion Comfort
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON From In Memoriam
EMILY DICKINSON “They say that ‘Time assuages’–”
KAY RYAN Retroactive
GWENDOLYN BROOKS when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story
CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ Mittelbergheim
EMILY BRONTE My Lady’s Grave
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI Remember
JOHN MILTON Methought I saw
RICHARD WILBUR The House
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW The Cross of Snow
VICTOR HUGO “Tomorrow as soon as the countryside pales with dawn”
DOUGLAS DUNN The Kaleidoscope
TONY HARRISON From Long Distance
GRACE SCHULMAN Celebration
JAMES MERRILL Farewell Performance
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA Cat in an Empty Apartment
W. H. AUDEN Talking to Myself
THOM GUNN The Wound
TOBIAS KIRCHWEY To My Dissector
JANE KENYON Notes from the Other Side
DON PATERSON The Lover
MIROSLAV HOLUB Crush Syndrome
YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA Facing It
SEAMUS HEANEY Chorus from The Cure at Troy
KATE DANIELS Molecules
ABBA KOVNER He Stood There
ALISSA VALLES Discharge
DANEZ SMITH little prayer
GEORGE HERBERT The Flower
LES MURRAY Spring
WALLACE STEVENS The Sun This March
DEREK MAHON Everything Is Going To Be All Right
YEHUDA AMICHAI The Amen Stone
H. D. (HILDA DOOLITTLE) “O Heart, small urn”
CHARLOTTE MEW Not for that City
GWENDOLYN BROOKS From The Second Sermon on the Warpland
FOREWORD
 
“De profundis clamavi,” goes the first verse of Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” Healing is not a final state; it is not an end. It is, instead, a process. Sometimes it begins in those depths, whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual, and moves toward recovery. Healing takes time: and from this point of view, it would seem to be uniquely unsuited to our moment, which is habituated to reaction, rapid absorption and constant change. Healing does not work this way. It shares with poetry the need for participation in a process, if it is to provide a true cure, a lasting relief. Nor does merely declaring a cure necessarily make that cure effective, because poetry works by means of laws as mysterious and yet irrefutable as those of science. In poetry there is the genuine cry and the feigned one, just as in medicine there is the genuine cure and the snake oil, and it is helpful to know the difference between them. As the poet, critic and translator Richard Howard observed long ago in another context, poetry is not a lotion or ointment to be slathered on the outside; it is an inner treatment.
 
I wrote the preceding paragraph in December 2019, having started to gather the poems for this anthology a year before that. Like everyone else in the age of the internet, I was simultaneously connected and disconnected, knowing and clueless, and was only peripherally aware of what had been happening in Wuhan, China. I had no idea that within three months, the Coronavirus pandemic would begin to infect millions, kill hundreds of thousands, and cause worldwide economic devastation.
 
My primary care physician is also a scholar of the Vedas. Suffering from what I learned was labyrinthitis, an infection of the inner ear causing vertigo, I asked him why dizziness often results in a feeling of intense nausea. He looked at me and smiled and said, “Medicine is not very good at answering the question Why.” I was surprised at this response, from one as wise as he. I thought doctors were scientists. I thought answering the question Why? was the essence of any medical diagnosis. But maybe this is partly a matter of focus. In her memoir Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, Christine Montross writes, “At times, in fact at most times, specific knowledge in medicine seems to be better understood than general knowledge.” Poets, on the other hand, sometimes use the specifics of the world around them to arrive at a more general knowledge of what it means to be alive.
 
This anthology tracks a process beginning in illness, moving through a diagnosis (whether or not it answers the question Why?) to the identification of a remedy, and the possibility of healing. As the only creatures we know of afflicted with a lifelong knowledge of our own eventual extinction, of course we rejoice in our recovery. That rapture takes its point, however, its texture and its authenticity, from the knowledge of what we have come through. And we are never quite cured of what we know lies ahead.
 
The earliest poem in this anthology is one by the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos (and she is describing the symptoms of the sickness called being in love); the most recent, a homey reminiscence by a contemporary poet of a rubber hot water bottle, has not yet appeared in a book. The illnesses catalogued here range from “spleen” to substance abuse, from anorexia to AIDS, from depression and bipolar disorder to cancer. The work gathered under the rubric of Poems of Healing necessarily overlaps with poems included in other anthologies: of elegies, for example, or poems chronicling emotional extremes. Poetry has always existed next door to sacred chant and magical incantation, too, and even the echo chamber of our age cannot quite erase the fact that words have power. Some poems even borrow the list form of a successful Rx. In many poems, healing is not comfort and time does not heal all. In these poems healing is, instead, perfected remembering.
 
American poet Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art,” already widely enough anthologized not to require inclusion here, concludes with the mordant lines “It’s evident/ the art of losing’s not too hard to master,/ though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.” Her parenthesis contains both defiance, and a challenge. For the poets included in this anthology are indeed determined to write their way out of illness, or if this is not possible, then by means of words to achieve at least a clear perspective on their own mortality. This requires resourcefulness and bravery, and not infrequently, the way out lies through the love of another person or the support of a community. If there is a single ingredient indispensable to the process and the work of healing, these poems suggest that it is love.
 
(May 2020)

About

A remarkable Pocket Poets anthology of poems from around the world and across the centuries about illness and healing, both physical and spiritual.

From ancient Greece and Rome up to the present moment, poets have responded with sensitivity and insight to the troubles of the human body and mind. Poems of Healing gathers a treasury of such poems, tracing the many possible journeys of physical and spiritual illness, injury, and recovery, from John Donne’s “Hymne to God My God, In My Sicknesse” and Emily Dickinson’s “The Soul has Bandaged moments” to Eavan Boland’s “Anorexic,” from W.H. Auden’s “Miss Gee” to Lucille Clifton’s “Cancer,” and from D.H. Lawrence’s “The Ship of Death” to Rafael Campo’s “Antidote” and Seamus Heaney’s “Miracle.” Here are poems from around the world, by Sappho, Milton, Baudelaire, Longfellow, Cavafy, and Omar Khayyam; by Stevens, Lowell, and Plath; by Zbigniew Herbert, Louise Bogan, Yehuda Amichai, Mark Strand, and Natalia Toledo. Messages of hope in the midst of pain—in such moving poems as Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” George Herbert’s “The Flower,” Wisława Szymborska’s “The End and the Beginning,” Gwendolyn Brooks’ “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story” and Stevie Smith’s “Away, Melancholy”—make this the perfect gift to accompany anyone on a journey of healing.

Everyman's Library pursues the highest production standards, printing on acid-free cream-colored paper, with full-cloth cases with two-color foil stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, European-style half-round spines, and a full-color illustrated jacket.

Table of Contents

 Foreword

QUINTUS SERENUS SAMMONICUS “Abracadabra”
 
THE ILLNESS
C. K. WILLIAMS Really
EMILY DICKINSON “The Soul has Bandaged moments –”
MARK STRAND “The sickness of angels is nothing new
ANNE FINCH The Spleen
CHARLES BAUDELAIRE Spleen (IV)
WILLIAM COWPER Lines Written During a Period of Insanity
SPENCER REECE From Hartford
CAROL ANN DUFFY The Virgin’s Memo
DOUGLAS DUNN From Disenchantments
D. A. POWELL “they hear the clapping of the bell and are afraid”
GJERTRUD SCHNACKENBERG From The Light Gray Soil
KAY RYAN Among English Verbs
ROBERT PINSKY Dying
EAVAN BOLAND Anorexic
GWYNETH LEWIS “Talk With a Headache”
SAPPHO TWO TRANSLATIONS (Fragment 31)
THOM GUNN The Man With Night Sweats
C. P. CAVAFY The Funeral of Sarpedon
KEITH DOUGLAS John Anderson
DAVID CONSTANTINE Pity
MAY SWENSON Staring at the Sea on the Day of the Death of Another
 
THE DIAGNOSIS
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA Clothes
W. H. AUDEN Miss Gee
WILLIAM LOGAN Little Compton
ALISSA VALLES Decision Tree
RAFAEL CAMPO Antidote
GAVIN EWART Sonnet: Intermittent Claudication
JANE KENYON Prognosis
LUCILLE CLIFTON Cancer
LUCILLE CLIFTON 1994
C. K. WILLIAMS Diagnosis
NICOLE SEALEY medical history
J. D. MCCLATCHY My Mammogram
ADRIENNE RICH Power
TOM PAULIN Under the Eyes
JULIA ALVAREZ “Are we all ill with acute loneliness”
EMILY DICKINSON “A Wounded Deer – leaps highest–”
 
THE REMEDY
ROBERT PINSKY ABC
VASKO POPA Before the Game
VASKO POPA After the Game
MASAOKA SHIKI Eight Haiku
ZBIGNIEW HERBERT Breviary
MARCELLUS EMPIRICUS From De Medicamentis
JANE KENYON From Having It Out With Melancholy
C. P. CAVAFY Melancholy of Jason Kleander, Poet in Kommagini, AD 595
NATALIA TOLEDO The Flower That Drops Its Petals
MIROSLAV HOLUB “Although a poem arises . . .’
MIROSLAV HOLUB “Although a poem is . . .”
ADRIENNE RICH Calibrations
GREG DELANTY The Green Room
MARK STRAND “When after a long silence one picks up the pen”
LOUISE GLUCK A Slip of Paper
C. P. CAVAFY Kleitos’ Illness
JOHN DONNE Hymne to God My God, In My Sicknesse
D. H. LAWRENCE From The Ship of Death
ADA LIMON The Raincoat
MARY JO SALTER Hot Water Bottle
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU A Receipt to Cure the Vapors
KARL KIRCHWEY Blood and Light
ALISSA VALLES Pain Fellow
RAFAEL CAMPO From Phone Messages on Call
KATE DANIELS Support Group
AIMEE GRUNBERGER Chemotherapy
J. D. MCCLATCHY From Radiation Days
MAX RITVO Poem To My Litter
JOHN DOWLAND Come, Heavy Sleep
DONALD HALL Deathwork
OMAR KHAYYAM From The Ruba’iyat
CHARLES BAUDELAIRE Invitation to the Voyage
MARGARET ATWOOD Up
STEVIE SMITH Away, Melancholy
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS “My own heart let me more have pity on”
 
THE HEALING
LUCILLE CLIFTON blessing the boats
ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI Try to Praise the Mutilated World
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA The End and the Beginning
RUDAKI On the Death of the Amir’s Father
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Song: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”
DYLAN THOMAS A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London
EAVAN BOLAND Quarantine
ADRIENNE RICH From a Survivor
ROSANNA WARREN For Chiara
DEBORA GREGER Black Silk
SEAMUS HEANEY Miracle
CHARLOTTE MEW On the Asylum Road
LOUISE BOGAN Evening in the Sanitarium
SYLVIA PLATH Tulips
ROBERT LOWELL Home After Three Months Away
EMILY DICKINSON “After great pain, a formal feeling comes–”
HENRI COLE Morning Glory
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS Carrion Comfort
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON From In Memoriam
EMILY DICKINSON “They say that ‘Time assuages’–”
KAY RYAN Retroactive
GWENDOLYN BROOKS when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story
CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ Mittelbergheim
EMILY BRONTE My Lady’s Grave
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI Remember
JOHN MILTON Methought I saw
RICHARD WILBUR The House
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW The Cross of Snow
VICTOR HUGO “Tomorrow as soon as the countryside pales with dawn”
DOUGLAS DUNN The Kaleidoscope
TONY HARRISON From Long Distance
GRACE SCHULMAN Celebration
JAMES MERRILL Farewell Performance
WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA Cat in an Empty Apartment
W. H. AUDEN Talking to Myself
THOM GUNN The Wound
TOBIAS KIRCHWEY To My Dissector
JANE KENYON Notes from the Other Side
DON PATERSON The Lover
MIROSLAV HOLUB Crush Syndrome
YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA Facing It
SEAMUS HEANEY Chorus from The Cure at Troy
KATE DANIELS Molecules
ABBA KOVNER He Stood There
ALISSA VALLES Discharge
DANEZ SMITH little prayer
GEORGE HERBERT The Flower
LES MURRAY Spring
WALLACE STEVENS The Sun This March
DEREK MAHON Everything Is Going To Be All Right
YEHUDA AMICHAI The Amen Stone
H. D. (HILDA DOOLITTLE) “O Heart, small urn”
CHARLOTTE MEW Not for that City
GWENDOLYN BROOKS From The Second Sermon on the Warpland

Excerpt

FOREWORD
 
“De profundis clamavi,” goes the first verse of Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” Healing is not a final state; it is not an end. It is, instead, a process. Sometimes it begins in those depths, whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual, and moves toward recovery. Healing takes time: and from this point of view, it would seem to be uniquely unsuited to our moment, which is habituated to reaction, rapid absorption and constant change. Healing does not work this way. It shares with poetry the need for participation in a process, if it is to provide a true cure, a lasting relief. Nor does merely declaring a cure necessarily make that cure effective, because poetry works by means of laws as mysterious and yet irrefutable as those of science. In poetry there is the genuine cry and the feigned one, just as in medicine there is the genuine cure and the snake oil, and it is helpful to know the difference between them. As the poet, critic and translator Richard Howard observed long ago in another context, poetry is not a lotion or ointment to be slathered on the outside; it is an inner treatment.
 
I wrote the preceding paragraph in December 2019, having started to gather the poems for this anthology a year before that. Like everyone else in the age of the internet, I was simultaneously connected and disconnected, knowing and clueless, and was only peripherally aware of what had been happening in Wuhan, China. I had no idea that within three months, the Coronavirus pandemic would begin to infect millions, kill hundreds of thousands, and cause worldwide economic devastation.
 
My primary care physician is also a scholar of the Vedas. Suffering from what I learned was labyrinthitis, an infection of the inner ear causing vertigo, I asked him why dizziness often results in a feeling of intense nausea. He looked at me and smiled and said, “Medicine is not very good at answering the question Why.” I was surprised at this response, from one as wise as he. I thought doctors were scientists. I thought answering the question Why? was the essence of any medical diagnosis. But maybe this is partly a matter of focus. In her memoir Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, Christine Montross writes, “At times, in fact at most times, specific knowledge in medicine seems to be better understood than general knowledge.” Poets, on the other hand, sometimes use the specifics of the world around them to arrive at a more general knowledge of what it means to be alive.
 
This anthology tracks a process beginning in illness, moving through a diagnosis (whether or not it answers the question Why?) to the identification of a remedy, and the possibility of healing. As the only creatures we know of afflicted with a lifelong knowledge of our own eventual extinction, of course we rejoice in our recovery. That rapture takes its point, however, its texture and its authenticity, from the knowledge of what we have come through. And we are never quite cured of what we know lies ahead.
 
The earliest poem in this anthology is one by the ancient Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos (and she is describing the symptoms of the sickness called being in love); the most recent, a homey reminiscence by a contemporary poet of a rubber hot water bottle, has not yet appeared in a book. The illnesses catalogued here range from “spleen” to substance abuse, from anorexia to AIDS, from depression and bipolar disorder to cancer. The work gathered under the rubric of Poems of Healing necessarily overlaps with poems included in other anthologies: of elegies, for example, or poems chronicling emotional extremes. Poetry has always existed next door to sacred chant and magical incantation, too, and even the echo chamber of our age cannot quite erase the fact that words have power. Some poems even borrow the list form of a successful Rx. In many poems, healing is not comfort and time does not heal all. In these poems healing is, instead, perfected remembering.
 
American poet Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art,” already widely enough anthologized not to require inclusion here, concludes with the mordant lines “It’s evident/ the art of losing’s not too hard to master,/ though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.” Her parenthesis contains both defiance, and a challenge. For the poets included in this anthology are indeed determined to write their way out of illness, or if this is not possible, then by means of words to achieve at least a clear perspective on their own mortality. This requires resourcefulness and bravery, and not infrequently, the way out lies through the love of another person or the support of a community. If there is a single ingredient indispensable to the process and the work of healing, these poems suggest that it is love.
 
(May 2020)

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