Poetry’s relationship to solitude is paradoxical: while many poets savor the isolation needed to write their best work, the finished product will ideally create connection, or even community.
“Solitude” by Caroline Caddy
like a good pair of binoculars
or a camera case
perfectly and deeply compartmented.
“Childhood’s Retreat” by Robert Duncan
to find my own, my secret
hiding sense and place, where from afar
all voices and scenes come back
“The Solitude of Night” by Li Po
I went along the river—alone in the moonlight.
“Ode on Solitude” by Alexander Pope
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
“The Sound of One Fork” by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Her younger neighbors think that she is lonely.
But I know what sufficiency she may possess.
“American Solitude” by Grace Schulman
Hers is no common
emptiness, but a vaster silence filled
with terns’ cries, an abundant solitude.
“Sanctuary” by Jean Valentine
The uses of solitude. To imagine; to hear.
Learning braille. To imagine other solitudes.
“Dance Russe” by William Carlos Williams
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
WALLOWING IN LONELINESS
“The Glass Essay” by Anne Carson
Whenever I visit my mother
I feel I am turning into Emily Brontë,
my lonely life around me like a moor,
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
“Proportion Surviving” by Renee Gladman
I began to trace things by their disappearance. Alone in the room, my memory, and anticipated darkness going for light.
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
“Night” by Michael Hofmann
The night—yours to decide,
Among drink, or books, or lying there.
“[He is pruning the privet]” by Joanne Kyger
You are not alone is this world
not a lone a parallel world of reflection
“Things” by Lisel Mueller
What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
“Flood: Years of Solitude” by Dionisio D. Martínez
To the one at the back of the empty bus.
“‘Alone’” by Edgar Allan Poe
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
“Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
BEING ALONE IN A CROWD
“Shy Boy” by Greg Sellers
The orchestra’s now ready to Fauré
into the evening’s last song while I try
to convince myself to cross this room
“Caedmon” by Denise Levertov
munched or stirred or were still. I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure.
“Bryant Park at Dusk” by Geoffrey Brock
I’m alone in a crowd—e pluribus plures.
Far from a family I miss.
“On Broadway” by Claude McKay
Oh wonderful is Broadway — only
My heart, my heart is lonely.
Four podcasts examine poetry’s power to exalt or alleviate loneliness.
“The Healing Power of Poetry”: Jennifer Nix discusses how the poet Joanne Kyger helped her feel less lonely during a serious illness.
“Loneliness Rhymes and Slippery Slopes”: Poems from Jane Mead, Bob Hicok, Rachel Wetzsteon, and Eleanor Ross Taylor; Ange Mlinko discusses poetry and the brain.
“Light in the Service of Loneliness”: Fanny Howe, winner of the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, reads from her work.
“A Wild Solitude Revealed”: Lisa Jarnot discusses the poetry of Robert Duncan.