This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort

This Place I know: Poems of Comfort Edited by Georgia Heard, with 18 illustrations by "renowned picture book artists." (2002)

I picked up, more or less at random, this anthology of poems--the idea of comforting poems appealed during this late August time of endings and transitions (I had my first anxiety dream about starting 2nd grade last night). These poems were gathered with a rather more powerful purpose, however--Georgia Heard chose them for the New York City children who saw the World Trade Center fall. But whether the anxiousness-es or griefs are large or small, the poems in this book can provide a starting place for talk, or simply be a comfort in themselves. These are, incidentally, secular poems; the comfort they offer comes from images of hope and happiness, nature and the love of other people.

All anthologies are someone else's choices (unless you happen to be the editor); some choices are agreeable, some are wonderful surprises, and others fail to move. One poem, new to me, which I loved was The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry. I can't quote the whole thing here because of copyright, but here it is with the middle removed:

"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and children's lives may be...
...I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It is perhaps not surprising that this was my favorite, because of the parental element. Other lovely poems include "Strengthen the Things that Remain" by Nancy Wood, "Dreams," by Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope is the thing with feathers."

Then 18 magnificent illustrators are a bit of a grab bag. I love William Steig's children's books, but the boy in his picture here is the scary type from his New Yorker cartoons. Kevin Hawkes, however, has a lovely picture to go with the Wendall Berry poem.

But who could not like

Trouble, fly
out of our house.
We left the window
open for you.

("Trouble, Fly" by Susan Marie Swanson).

The Poetry Friday Roundup is over at The Book Mine Set today! Enjoy.


  1. I love, love, LOVE Wendell Barry!
    The courtesy of an open window - a nice touch.

  2. Great idea and motivation behind it.


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