Poetry That Will Get You Through a Hard Time
Five writers recall their darkest hours and the poems that sustained them.
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Timothy Shriver experiences waves of grief and joy.When I was a child, my family went to Cape Cod every summer. There I discovered that our clan included loads of cousins and uncles and aunts and animals of every shape. I was taught that chaos and competition were family values. And I learned that we all loved the sea. Somehow, the sea was about us—our past, our exuberance, our frailty, our longing.
I first read Emily Dickinson's "Exultation Is the Going" in 2009, shortly after the death of my mother, who like her brother weeks later, died within a stone's throw of Nantucket Sound. I felt the poem was a gift from her—a message across time and space to remember that the sea still holds her spirit and that sailing across the ocean is perhaps the best way I'll ever find to experience eternity.
Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,
Past the houses—past the headlands—
Into deep Eternity—
Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?
Timothy Shriver is the chief executive officer of Special Olympics.
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"Exultation Is the Going" excerpted from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, published by Little, Brown and Company (Back Bay Books).