The Power of Poetry

Post (c) Doris McCraw


What is it about poetry that touches the soul? What makes certain combinations of words haunting, happy or beautiful? This poem by Helen (Hunt) Jackson may help us understand the power of words.


As when on some great mountain-peak we stand,

In breathless awe beneath its dome of sky,

Whose multiplied horizons seem to lie

Beyond the bounds of earthly sea and land,

We find the circles space to vast, too grand,

And soothe our thoughts with restful memory

Of sudden sunlit glimpses we passed by

Too quickly, in our feverish demand

To reach the height,–

So darling, when the brink

Of highest heaven we reach at last, I think

Even that great gladness will grow yet more glad,

As we, with eyes that are no longer sad,

Look back, while Life’s horizons slowly sink,

To some swift moments which on earth we had.

From the book “Poems” by Helen Jackson

Little Brown and Company 1908

First appearance in publication September 19, 1872, New York Independent

One thing I love about the poetry of Helen Hunt Jackson is the musicality it has when read aloud. Not read as one usually reads poetry, with the breaks and breaths at the end of the line, but read as prose. If you read this poem aloud, reading through the complete thought, its true beauty comes through. Try reading it through more than once. Try different combinations of breathes and thought combining. The beauty of this poem; each time you read it something different blossoms into being. I believe that true poetry never has the same story, same meaning twice. Each it will touch a different chord.

As you read this or any poem, keep an open mind and heart. Helen was favorably compared to many of the poets of her time. For some she was actually considered the best; male or female. It is interesting that Helen was so popular during her lifetime. With her poetry, essays, and novels she able to make a living as a writer. Emily Dickinson, a childhood friend who lived down the street from Helen in Amherst, did not become popular until her death. Now the tables have turned, Emily is now the more well know of the two. Each had their own style, and each wrote beautiful pieces of work.

The next time you are looking for something do to, search online for some of Helen’s poetry, or better yet, find a book of her poems, and start reading. To me the gift of the poet, and for me that is Helen, is the joy of finding something new every time I read their work. Give poetry, especially Helen’s, a try.  For me, poetry, especially Helen’s will never grow old.


Doris Gardner-McCraw –

also writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

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12 Responses to The Power of Poetry

  1. Being a poet myself, I too would like to encourage you to try reading some poetry if you haven’t already done so. Many classic poets can be hard to understand, but many modern ones are more straightforward, so don’t give up if you find work that’s too abstract.


  2. Neva Bodin says:

    Poetry is fascinating in that it can say so much with so little. It may read and flow smoothly which belies the work some poets may have put into it. For myself, I like to write the poems that suddenly appear in my mind and just flow onto the page. I really admire the poets in our writing group as they have a gift. Helen Hunt Jackson certainly had a gift for it.


    • Doris says:

      Neva, I feel the same way when I have a poem start singing in my mind. It is true, poetry is like other forms of writing, there can be a fair amount of rewriting.

      Here’s to poetry and the songs that come to mind. Doris


  3. Mike Staton says:

    A heartfelt poem has been known to bring tears to my eyes. I like novels that have a poetic rhythm to their narratives. Sometimes I’ll reread a passage just to enjoy its beauty. World War I poems are heart-tearing… so many of the poets died young, casualties of that long-ago war.


    • Doris says:

      Mike, you are so correct. Poetry can and does touch the soul of a person in a way that is unique.

      I also enjoy the poetic rhythm of novels. One person who did that to great effect, at least in his early work was Dean Koontz. Let’s face it, poetry is the rhythm of the heart’s beat, just as music is. Doris


  4. Doris says:

    Mike, you are so correct. Poetry can and does touch the soul of a person in a way that is unique.

    I also enjoy the poetic rhythm of novels. One person who did that to great effect, at least in his early work was Dean Koontz. Let’s face it, poetry is the rhythm of the heart’s beat, just as music is. Doris


  5. wyoauthor1 says:

    Wonderful poem, Doris! The images and feelings she evokes are priceless! I know several poets, including our own Abbie Johnson, and there are some poets in my Wednesday night writer’s group. I am in awe of their ability to create images and feelings in few words — truly, poets are gifted! I miss seeing your haikus and photos. Thank you and Abbie for the encouragement to read more poetry — I do believe I will! Great post!!


    • Doris says:

      Thank you Gayle. I sometimes miss writing the haiku, but other writing has taken over my time. I do think I will return to it in the next year or so.

      When you read Helen’s poems, you can understand why she was considered one of the best poets of any sex during her lifetime. Doris


  6. M. K. Waller says:

    The poem reminds me of both Wordsworth’s and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s works. Not bad poets to be linked with.


    • Doris says:

      Agreed Kathy. I have always had an affinity for poetry, and Helen’s just resonates with me more than most. Of course I’m a fan of Tennyson, Ferlinghetti and a few others. Helen’s work does compare with the greats, I agree with you there. Doris


  7. S. J. Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have never been one to enjoy poetry , but you are broadening my horizons.


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