We must become so alone, so utterly
alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self.
It is a way of bitter
But then our solitude is
overcome, we are no longer alone,
for we find that our innermost
self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible.
And suddenly we find ourselves
in the midst of the world,
yet undisturbed by its
for our innermost soul we know
ourselves to be one with all being.
I recently came across the Herman Hesse quote above, and it really
resonated for me when applied to the Covid pandemic and all the other stressful
and unsettling things that are going on in our world. I’m reminded of current
terms and catch phrases such as “social distancing,” “quarantine,” “sheltering
in place,” “self-isolating at home,” and “being alone together.”
As human beings, we are social by nature—creatures of community
and companionship. As we experience the varying degrees of being alone dictated
by this virus, it may be a good thing to think in terms of our "aloneness" and
how it can lead to ultimate oneness with each other and all that there is.
Alone and lonely are both
adjectives, but they have different meanings. A person is alone when he or she is
by himself or herself. A person is lonely when he or she feels isolated, abandoned and, therefore, sad. “Alone” refers to a state of solitude, rather than the emotion that “loneliness” suggests. Loneliness can sometimes feel
like a kind of existential angst. Writers like Sartre, Camus, and Kafka have
written novels about this feeling and what it tells us about being human. There
is also an abundance of poetry about it.
During this pandemic, we are often
more alone than we are accustomed to being as we work from home, attend classes
online, are unable to safely socialize with colleagues and friends, and cannot gather in large groups.
It’s important for us to differentiate between loneliness and being alone,
although, understandably, during stressful times like these, it is completely
possible to be both lonely and alone at the same time.
Hopefully, in writing about being lonely and/or alone, we can use our poems and shared
experiences to show that we are not utterly different and are still part of humankind's universal community.
Guidelines & Tips
1. Does the opening quote touch you in any special way? What does it mean to
you (how do you understand this quote)? Is there a spiritual aspect expressed
in the quote that speaks to you?
2. Can you apply the quote to your personal life and what’s going on in
the world today—the Covid pandemic?
3. During the past several challenging months, when being alone in some
manner and to some degree has become part of our daily lives, how has being
alone affected you and your loved ones?
4. If you’ve been feeling stressed out, depressed, and lonely because
of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. We’re all feeling the effects of
social isolation. What are some ways in which we can combat these feelings
(telephone calls, emails, texting, Zoom gatherings, other electronic methods of
bringing people together virtually)?
5. Start by making a list or doing a free write about how being alone and/or loneliness
makes you feel.
6. Using your list or free write, begin writing a poem about
loneliness, solitude, or any aspect of the Covid Pandemic that has forced you
into more time alone, and greater introspection than ever before.
7. Craft your poem carefully, not overburdening it with too many
details and by not overtly using words like “loneliness,” “solitude,” or “being
8. Try to keep your poem short (under 40 lines) or perhaps a short
9. Don’t include anything that’s not absolutely essential to the poem.
10. Try to evoke feelings of loneliness by showing, not telling. You
may wish to relate a specific incident (narrative poem) or you may prefer to be
more general. Either way, remember to be unique in your choice of language and
figures of speech.
11. Avoid over-use of adjectives.
12. Be wary of becoming maudlin or over-stating sentiment.
Solitude of Night
By Li Bai
(Translated by Shigeyoshi
It was at a wine party—
I lay in a drowse,
knowing it not.
The blown flowers
fell and filled my lap.
When I arose, still
The birds had all
gone to their nests,
And there remained
but few of my comrades.
I went along the
river—alone in the moonlight.
Source: The Works of Li Po The Chinese Poet (EP
Dutton & Company, 1921)
Flood: Years of
By Dionisio D. Martinez
To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway.
To the one at the back of the empty bus.
To the ones who name each piece of stained glass projected
on a white wall.
To anyone convinced that a monologue is a conversation with
To the one who loses with the deck he marked.
To those who are destined to inherit the meek.
The Loneliness One
Dare Not Sound
By Emily Dickinson
The Loneliness One dare not sound—
And would as soon surmise
As in its Grave go plumbing
To ascertain the size—
The Loneliness whose worst alarm
Is lest itself should see—
And perish from before itself
For just a scrutiny—
The Horror not to be surveyed—
But skirted in the Dark—
With Consciousness suspended—
And Being under Lock—
And this pandemic specific poem by friend and fellow poet Jane Ebihara (originally
published in Frost Meadow Review “Pandemic Poetry,” August 10, 2020).
By Jane Ebihara
eliminate all non-essential travel stay six feet away from others wear
a mask in public stay home stay home the virus doesn’t move we do
stay home wash your hands stay home wash your hands don’t touch
our sanctuaries and cells—
we long for the ordinary
a haircut a gathering the gym a
carwash a night out an embrace
I stand at the window looking out
in April wind
a long abandoned nest
no bigger than a teacup
clings to the dogwood
a male cardinal at the feeder lifts
seeds to the beak of his mate
three turkey vultures swoop low
cast shadows on the lawn