A Pause… May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’

May Sarton (1912-1995) wrote the journal entries that would become Journal of a Solitude in a very different world from today’s.  The resulting book, in comparison to modern memoirs, is remarkably gentle and private.  It is also free of drama.  Before Twitter, Facebook, and modern technology it was apparently much easier to live life slower.

I am proud of being fifty-eight, and still alive and kicking, in love, more creative, balanced, and potent than I have ever been.  I mind certain physical deterioration, but not really. And not at all when I look at the marvelous photograph that Bill sent me of Isak Dinesan just before she died.  For after all we make our faces as we go along, and who when young could ever look as she does?  The ineffable sweetness of that smile, the total acceptance and joy one receives from it, life, death, everything taken in and, as it were, savored – and let go.

Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in this past year.  Somewhere in The Poet and the Donkey Andy speaks for me when he says, “Do not deprive me of my age.  I have earned it.”

Sarton was more prolific than her reputation implies  (she published 16 volumes of poetry alone).   But to my mind Journal of a Solitude is her best and richest work.  The individual entries read as meditations on friendship, nature, creative endeavor and growing old.  It remains the perfect touchstone in an increasingly hectic world.

Publisher:  W.W. Norton & Company, New York (1977)
ISBN:  0 393 00853 3

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5 thoughts on “A Pause… May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’

  1. Journal of a Solitude is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I love May Sarton’s writing; her solitude seemed to distill her thoughts and purify her sentences. I wonder what she would have made of our multi-tasking, always connected world? The kind of solitary focus and sustained effort her work represents is rare today.

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    1. I have to agree, Lisa… as slim a book as Journal of a Solitude is, I never seem to finish it in just one sitting. I also enjoyed The House by the Sea, but have been unable appreciate Sarton’s novels or poetry.

      Adrienne Rich is the same situation – I’m a huge fan of her non-fiction work, but her poetry just doesn’t speak to me.

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    1. Ack Chriss! You just made me feel old! 🙂

      Your Mom might enjoy Sarton, but you might as well. I first read Sarton in college, and despite the gap of over 25 years I found her writing strangely comforting. But again, I have to qualify. Her fiction and poetry weren’t to my tastes.

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