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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The Other Half

Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw







This past weekend I spent time with some amazing women who write about the experience of women in the West. The organization was celebrating its twentieth conference.  It began when women authors wished to be acknowledged as writers of western fiction. The group grew and we are the recipients of their vision.

Some have called me a feminist. While not offended, I consider myself a historian who wants to have a more complete picture of what really took place as we grew as a nation. The energy I received from being around others who also tell the story, both as fiction and non-fiction spurs me forward in that quest.

Mule drawn supply wagon

This in no way is discounting what history has told us about Kit Carson, Red Cloud, Custer and any of the other figures in our history. This is about telling the other half of the stories, Helen (Hunt) Jackson, Isabella Bird, Nellie Cashman  and other women who also were part of the westward movement.

EXPLORATION: United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (Hayden). In Bear Canyon near Boulder City. Colorado Territory, July 1869.
EXPLORATION: United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (Hayden). In Bear Canyon near Boulder City. Colorado Territory, July 1869.

When I write of the women doctors, it is no way discounts Gardiner, Solly, Goodfellow, but also adds Avery, Preston, Spencer and others who worked at the same time as their male counterparts. I guess you could say I’m wanting to balance the scale, show that is took all people, to make the West, in fact all of what is our history.  So was the 20th anniversary of the Women Writing the West conference a success, for me it was.

So until next time, here is to history, all of it.

“Film and Photography on the Front Range” (Regional History Series): Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Library District 2012
Product Detailsavailable on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords      Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines





Outside the Lines

doris curiosity







Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw

Remember when young and being told you needed to color within the lines, the sky was blue not purple? It was the way for us to understand the rules. But once you knew the rules, purple skies were okay?

Purple Sky

As the study of history and the people who lived it continues, the number of people who colored outside the lines, and made the sky purple grows. The movers and shakers knew the rules, but found them too confining or restrictive.  If the Founding Fathers and Mothers had not colored outside the lines, America might not be here today.

The wonderful women doctors I have researched all colored outside the lines. Women did not go into medicine, did not look at cadavers, etc. Yet because these women dared, those who followed have made great contributions to society.

Women have always written, but for years it was inappropriate to use one’s own name. Many writers such as Helen (Hunt) Jackson, Martha Finley, Mary Abby Dodge and Mary Ann Evans became well-known and respected for their writings, but under pen names.  When Jackson published “Ramona” under her own name she broke a tradition that had held nineteenth century women to different standards than men.

Portrait of George Eliot by Samuel Laurence
Portrait of George Eliot by Samuel Laurence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps some of the most well-known rule breakers were people like Galileo Galilei,  Cleopatra, and Hatshepsut. They all challenged the status quo. Although their fates were not always favorable, if they had not taken the actions they had, life might be very different for all of us.

Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we get the call to try something different, maybe we should give it a try.  The story we think wouldn’t sell because that is not what is a best seller might turn out to be the story that someone needs to hear or read to start them to their own journey outside the lines.

Traditions and rules are great. Many are beloved and should remain, but for the right reasons, not because it has always been done that way. Follow the rules because they are right for you. If they are wrong, coloring outside the lines is acceptable in fact maybe even desirable.

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