Poems that help us to endure

I’ve recently completed reading Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg’s memoir Journey into the Whirlwind. What has struck me about the memoir is, in particular, Ginzburg’s reliance on poetry as a means to enduring prison, deprivation, oppression.

In several selections, she reiterates how reciting or recalling poetry–Pushkin, Pasternak, Blok, Mandelstam, and lesser-known (to us Westerners) poets such as Tyutchev, Chorny & Nekrasov–gave her hope or encouraged her to keep on in the face of awful situations, or just to remind her that others have endured harsh and terrible conditions and found the means to express themselves despite it all.

I believe poems–and art of all varieties–help us to endure. Some poets who have helped me to endure include Anna Akhmatova, Mark Doty, Mary Oliver, Gregory Orr, John Donne, Yehudi Amichai, Stanley Kunitz, Donald Hall, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Marie Ponsot, and others. Too many to name.

Who has helped you to endure? Whose art, whose poetry, whose stories, whose music?

When we reflect on these creations, perhaps we can learn more about ourselves.

6 comments on “Poems that help us to endure

  1. singingbones says:

    Rilke, Neruda, May Sarton, yes of course Mary Oliver!, I also love David Whyte’s writings and words about poets and poetry and life. Billy Collins, at times. Inspiration can come from nearly anywhere at times. Thanks for the post, I like your words a lot. yes, lots of musicians, depending on the era and my mood. Lately, I like Ryan Adams (so melancholic!) and got hooked on Adele’s latest CD. Patti Griffith is a perennial favorite. Sometimes certain cello music…..


    • Neruda, oh yes. And Lorca, come to that…and Rilke. Others perhaps less known come to mind? I’m thinking Chana Bloch and Rachel Hadas. Oh, Linda Pastan.


      • singingbones says:

        You are the poetry expert, I am simply an occasional reader. Can’t find everybody up here in Denmark, but will look up these poets on the internet… thanks!


  2. Beth says:

    Oh gosh. No one has plunged in yet with their own list? Maybe because yours is so good. For me, Akhmatova for sure, Heaney, Milosz, Herbert, Zagajewski, Whitman, Frost, Snyder…back to Homer…forward to so many contemporary online poets…I think it’s too hard to choose! Poetry itself helps me endure.


  3. […] I will dismount from my high horse now. With all the disorienting information being bombarded at me these days, I need a poem to reorient myself. Here’s one by Mary Oliver. […]


Comments are closed.