Journal of Poetry Therapy

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 99–108 | Cite as

Poetic Resources

  • Geri Giebel Chavis


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Literary Anthologies

  1. Granetz, Ruth Lyell. Ed. Middle Age, Old Age: Short Stories, Poems, Plays, and Essays on Aging. N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1980. (Organized thematically into seven sections, this rich anthology is designed to broaden and deepen our perspective on aging through literary works of different genres written during diverse periods by writers from various cultures. This collection balances works reflecting a theme of loss with those focusing on the growth of insight that comes with age. It includes several of the short stories and poems discussed individually in this bibliography as well as a wealth of other works written by Russian, American, British, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and French authors.)Google Scholar
  2. Maclay, Elise. Green Winter: Celebrations of Old Age. N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Press, 1977. (Collected here are poignant “word portraits of real people.” In poetic form, Maclay reflects the essence of men and women she has known and interviewed. The poems she creates are intimate in tone, conversational, and filled with a mixture of despair and rejoicing, seriousness and humor. Particularly noteworthy works in this collection are as follows: “My Children Are Coming Today” (on the need to be independent and understood by one’s grown children) “I Keep Forgetting Things” “I Said No Today” ( on being assertive regarding babysitting expectations) “I Don’t Hear As Well As I Used To” “Nostalgia” (on the pain and joy of remembering) “I’m a Coward (on the fear of being alone and depending on others) “In the Way” (on facing dependency on adult offspring) “Weather” (on accepting life’s surprises) “Grandchildren” (on being a special friend to one’s grandchildren) “Lost and Found” (a husband appreciating his wife, her help and companionship) “A Place of My Own” (on the comforts of staying in and maintaining one’s own home) “Sales Manager” (on a positive aspect of retirement) “Driving” (on recounting one’s blessings) “Our Secret” (on appreciating the joys of old age) “Night and Your Stars” (on relief from past concerns, acceptance of old age, and communion with God)Google Scholar
  3. Sennett, Dorothy. Full Measure: Modern Short Stories on Aging. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1988. (an excellent collection of stories designed to capture the “lonely voice of a submerged population” and to present a wide variety of elderly characters and their experiences. The 23 stories in this anthology speak of survival and renewal, how we survive through our attachment to living things, to places, and to loving memories.Google Scholar


  1. Abbott, Nell. “Angela.” Modern Maturity, Vol. 27, No. 3. April–May, 1984. (A woman contrasts herself vividly and lovingly with her 13-year old granddaughter)Google Scholar
  2. Angelou, Maya. “On Aging.” And Still I Rise. N.Y.: Random House, 1978. (In a defiant, somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, the speaker says she doesn’t want anyone’s pity now that she is old. Inside, she’s the same person she used to be.)Google Scholar
  3. Anonymous. “Now I Am Old.” In Smiley Blanton. Healing Power Of Poetry. N.Y.: Crowell, 1960. (a humorous poem in which the aged speaker laments his physical losses, yet is thankful for contentment that comes with everyday routines)Google Scholar
  4. Baker, Karle Wilson. “Let Me Grow Lovely.” Middle Age, Old Age. Ed. Ruth Granetz Lyell. N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. (Also found in George Lawton’s Aging Successfully, N.Y.: Columbia Univ. Press, 1946) (This poem shows us how old age can be equated with beauty rather than ugliness. Its speaker points out that if so many objects, such as lace, ivory, and silks, can become more valuable and lovely with time, why can’t this phenomenon be true for people as well?)Google Scholar
  5. Frost, Robert, “A Record Stride.” The New Pocket Anthology of American Verse From Colonial Days to the Present. Ed. Oscar Williams. Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1955. (The positive life review of the old man speaking this poem centers around a faithful pair of old shoes. The speaker’s pride in these shoes reflects his pride in himself, his adventures and accomplishments.)Google Scholar
  6. Harsen, Una W. “Apology for Age.” In George Lawton, Aging Successfully. N.Y.: Columbia Univ. Press, 1946. (For this poem’s speaker, the old, with their clear vision of an afterlife and hard-earned wisdom, play as vital a role in our world as do the young.)Google Scholar
  7. Katchentz, R.M. “In Bobby’s House.” Modern Maturity. Vol. 25, No. 1. Feb.-Mar., 1982. (This poem’s speaker expresses his sense of fleeing time, his admiration for a grown-up son’s house-building accomplishment, and his nostalgic memories of his own and his son’s childhoods.)Google Scholar
  8. Kavanaugh, James. “Apartment Four Upstairs.” Faces in the City. Los Angeles, CA: Nash Publishing. 1972. (This poem portrays an old couple who, in spite of their age and debilitation, still share a relationship marked by lively affection and sexual feelings.)Google Scholar
  9. Kavanaugh, James. “Gentle Old Woman.” From Loneliness to Love. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1986. (A tribute to an old woman who is a survivor because she knows how to extract joy or humor from even the smallest event)Google Scholar
  10. Kavanaugh, James. “Serene Old Lady of the Afternoon.” Faces in the City. (celebration of a particular old woman’s ability to survive, experience comfort from small things, and achieve serenity in old age)Google Scholar
  11. Kinsella, Thomas. “Mirror in February.” Mirrors: An Introduction to Literature. Third Edition. Eds. C.R. Reaske & J.R. Knott, Jr. N.Y: Harper & Row, 1988. (Shaving in front of his mirror, the aging speaker of this poem reflects not only on his physical losses but on his spiritual disillusionment as well.)Google Scholar
  12. Lawrence, D.H. “Beautiful Old Age.” The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence. Ed. D. de Sola Pinto & W. Roberts, N.Y.: Viking Press, 1964; 1971. (The speaker of this poem tells us what old age “ought” to be like, a time of contentment, peace, a mellow sense of fulfillment, in short, a stage of life that the young can view as a goal.)Google Scholar
  13. Lawrence, D.H. “Old People.” The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence. (By describing the young person’s frantic effort to remain young and the old person’s resentment toward the young, the speaker of this poem neatly sums up the youth worship permeating our society.)Google Scholar
  14. Lippe, Joseph. “On Reaching Seventy-One.” Modern Maturity. Vol. 27, No. 2. April-May, 1984. (a humorous yet realistic look at one’s old age, its losses and its compensations)Google Scholar
  15. Mirakentz, Claire. “Elderly Neighbor in the Energy Crisis.” Contemporary Women Poets. Eds. Jennifer McDowell & M. Loventhal. San Jose, CA: Merlin Press, 1977. (vividly makes a social statement about the cruelty of poverty in old age)Google Scholar
  16. Nash, Ogden. “Old Men.” Don’t Forget To Fly. Ed. Paul Janeczko. Scarsdale, N.Y.: Bradbury Press, 1981. (In a simple, striking way, this poem captures the blindness and prejudice of the young toward the old.)Google Scholar
  17. Oldham, Colleen. “Growing Old.” A Concise Treasury of Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi Poets and Their Poems. Riverview, Fla.: National Society of Published Poets, 1976. (A wife celebrates her spouse, a lifetime comfort and helpmate, and prays that they “leave together this life.”)Google Scholar
  18. Olds, Sharon. “Grandmother Love Poem.” The Dead And The Living. N.Y.: Knopf, 1984. (A granddaughter speaks lovingly of the lively woman her grandmother was.)Google Scholar
  19. Oliver, Mary. “Grandmothers.” The Women Poets in English: An Anthology. Ed. Ann Stanford. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1972. (a tribute to the silent nurturing and hard work of our grandmothers)Google Scholar
  20. Parker, Dorothy. “Afternoon.” The Portable Dorothy Parker. Intro. Brendan Gill. New York: Penguin Books, 1976. (A woman imagines a peaceful life of comfort when she is old but nevertheless wishes “those blessed years” were further away than they are.)Google Scholar
  21. Parker, Dorothy. “Little Old Lady in Lavender Silk.” The Portable Dorothy Parker. (An elderly lady reviews her past life in positive terms and half facetiously issues a statement to the world summing up her life. Despite some bitter experiences in past love relationships, she does not regret any of her decisions and glibly conveys her attitude in the phrase, “There was nothing more fun than a man!”)Google Scholar
  22. Ransom, John Crowe. “Old Man Playing With Children.” The Mentor Book of Major American Poets. Ed. Oscar Williams & E. Honig. N.Y.: New American Library, 1962. (Here we meet a spry old grandfather who not only cheerfully accepts his old age, but clearly points out that his self-image now is much more positive than it was when he was caught up in the petty materialistic concerns of the middle-aged.)Google Scholar
  23. Sauter, Deborah Weller. “In Which I File a Protest.” Modern Maturity. Oct.-Nov., 1986. (A blend of the humorous and the serious, this poem focuses on the desires and frustrations of an elderly person conscious of his/her physical deterioration.)Google Scholar
  24. Stafford, William. “Waiting in Line.” An Oregon Message. N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1987. (Coming to the “edge of the country” of “the very old,” the speaker of this poem sees the busy, frenetic world with its “disease of youth” from the eyes of the elderly who have attained a kind of heroic vision.)Google Scholar
  25. Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “Ulysses,” Lines 1–32. The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Ed. Hallam Lord Tennyson. N.Y: MacMillan Co., 1908. (The aged adventurer, Ulysses, reviews his accomplishments and concludes that for him the active life until death is the only answer. Ulysses’s words clearly illustrate the currently popular “activity theory of aging” which maintains that continuation of an active life style constitutes successful aging.)Google Scholar
  26. Tu Fu. “To Wei the Eighth, a Retired Scholar.” One Hundred And One Chinese Poems. Trans. Shih Shun Liu. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Univ. Press, 1967. (An elderly man addresses a friend with whom he has been temporarily reunited after a long absence. This poem speaks of the ever present possibility of death as a separator of friends.)Google Scholar
  27. Worsley, Alice F. “I Am Thinking Now of a Rest Home.” Contemporary Women Poets. Eds. McDowell & Loventhal. (a reflective poem in which an aging individual asks poignant questions about her future life in a rest home)Google Scholar

Short Stories

  1. Cather, Willa. “Neighbour Rosicky.” Obscure Destinies N.Y.: Knopf, 1932. (Although Rosicky knows he is not far from death, he retains his cheerful outlook and thinks of death as the inevitable conclusion to a life well-lived. As he sits remembering his past, he is thankful that he chose farm life over city living and is content in the knowledge that he is leaving a valuable legacy to the family he loves so well.)Google Scholar
  2. Cather, Willa. “Old Mrs. Harris.” Obscure Destinies. (An old widow lives like a servant with her daughter’s family, sacrificing without question her own needs and independence.)Google Scholar
  3. Cheever, John. “The World of Apples.” The World of Apples. N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973. (orig. 1961). (Although still an active writer, an eighty-two year old poet laureate begins to question the adequacy of his memory and creative energies and to be troubled by his growing sensuality. Through rejuvenating experiences on a “pilgrimage” designed to cleanse both his soul and his art, he is restored to his best creative self and a dignified self-image befitting his age.)Google Scholar
  4. Crane, Stephen. “A Detail.” The Work of Stephen Crane, Vol. XI (Midnight Sketches and Other Impressions). N.Y.: Russell & Russell, 1963. (orig. 1898). (recounts an old woman’s search for employment and the ways in which she is not taken seriously by the young people around her)Google Scholar
  5. Dinesen, Isak. “The Old Chevalier.” Women and Men: Men and Women: An Anthology of Short Stories. Ed. William Smart. St. Martin’s Press, 1975. (Told by an old man to a younger man about past days of young love, this story focuses on the philosophizing of the wise man who has learned about life, old age, and youth.)Google Scholar
  6. Farrell, James T. “The Old Timer.” Judith and Other Stories. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1973. (Narrated by an aging man not far from retirement, this story focuses on portraits of men who, after giving the best years of their lives to their employers, are left with nothingness when they retire. Realizing what the “old-timers” have gone through, the narrator vows at the end of the story not to make his jdb his whole life and prays that he will never be caught in that limbo between being too old to work and too young to die.)Google Scholar
  7. Ferber, Edna. “Old Man Minick.” Gigolo. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1922. (The author invites us to commiserate with Minick as he tries to adjust to a life of dependency with his son and daughter-in-law, before deciding he must strike out on his own. The old widower’s choice to dwell in a “Home for Aged Gentlemen” is based on his awareness that interaction with his peer group adds to his self-esteem and gives meaning to his life.)Google Scholar
  8. Ferber, Edna. “The Sudden Sixties.” Gigolo. (This story tells of an aging widow who lives on her own and experiences conflict between her desire for relaxation and peer companionship and her feeling of obligation toward her daughter and grandchildren.)Google Scholar
  9. Fisher, Dorothy Canfield. “The Heyday of the Blood.” A Harvest of Stories. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1927. (This story’s hero does not shrink from the reality of his own death because he has lived his life fully. Although eighty-eight and ailing, he continues to enjoy his life with gusto.)Google Scholar
  10. Fisher, Dorothy Canfield. “Old Man Warner.” A Harvest of Stories. (Because Old Man Warner lives alone in a farming settlement and refuses to live with his children or in a public institution, he is viewed by others as foolishly obstinate and cantankerous. Yet society’s narrow view of him is contrasted to the sympathetic view of the story’s young narrator. To her, the ninety-three year old farmer’s determination to take care of himself is seen as admirable.)Google Scholar
  11. Forni, Luigi. “Peace for Geretiello.” Trans. Edgar Whan. New World Writing, 10th Mentor Selection. N.Y.: New Amer. Lib., 1956. (Seventy-six year-old Geretiello spends his day examining his past, present, and future. Longing for the peace and dignity of retirement, he is bitter over the fact that he must still work for the dowry of his seventh daughter and resents not having a son to help lighten his financial burden and to become the free man he himself cannot be.)Google Scholar
  12. Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean Well-Lighted Place.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Fourth Edition. Ed. X.J. Kennedy. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1987. (Although focusing on a lonely old widower who spends every evening in a cafe, this story is also about the cafe’s young and middle-aged waiter who disagree in their assessment of the old customer.)Google Scholar
  13. Lardner, Ring. “The Golden Honeymoon.” Fifty Best American Short Stories, 1915–1965. Ed. Martha Foley, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965. (Narrated by the spirited husband, this story paints a humorous yet sensitive picture of a marital relationship characterized by habits of honest affection and harmless bickering.)Google Scholar
  14. Lessing, Doris. “An Old Woman and Her Cat.” By Women: An Anthology of Literature. Ed. L.H. Kirschner & M.M. Folsom. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. (A scathing satire on society’s neglect of its elderly poor, this story focuses on the actions and perceptions of a poor widow who appears eccentric and “senile” to others but is actually a fiercely independent person who refuses to vegetate in a public home for the aged.)Google Scholar
  15. Malamud, Bernard. “In Retirement.” Rembrandt’s Hat N.Y.: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968. (Suffering from loneliness and boredom, a recently retired physician and widower of sixty-six allows his imagination to deceive him regarding the attentions of an attractive young woman who does not know he exists. This story raises the often ignored issue of the aging individual’s sexual and romantic needs while also focusing on the common losses and problems of the retiree.)Google Scholar
  16. Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” Stories by Katherine Mansfield. N.Y.: Vintage, 1956. (a particularly powerful story providing a contrast between an elderly spinster’s sensitivity and perceptiveness and the callousness and ignorance of the young couple who sit next to the old woman on a park bench.)Google Scholar
  17. Marshall, Paule. “Brooklyn.” Women and Men/Men and Women: An Anthology of Short Stories. Ed. William Smart. (A sixty-three year old French professor reminisces over past failures and focuses on his lack of belief in anything, including politics, love, and religion. Finding himself attracted to one of his students whom he sees as a bridge back to life, he approaches her but is sorry he has done so, when he senses her resentment.)Google Scholar
  18. O’Hara, John. “Over the River And Through the Wood.” The O’Hara Generation. N.Y.: Random House, 1969. (Principally about a sixty-five year-old man and his relationship to his granddaughter and her two friends, this story highlights an aging man’s desire to preserve his dignity.)Google Scholar
  19. Parker, Dorothy, “The Wonderful Old Gentleman.” The Portable Dorothy Parker. N.Y.: Penguin, 1976. (In her characteristically ironic style, the author paints the portrait of a selfish, demanding old man, through the comments and perceptions of his two middle-aged daughters. This story focuses on the problems the father creates as a boarder in the home of one of his daughters and on sibling issues in relation to the care of an elderly parent.)Google Scholar
  20. Porter, Katherine Anne. “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” By Women: An Anthology of Literature. Ed. L.H. Kirschner & M.M. Folsom. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. (This story focuses on the death and life review process of an eighty year old woman. While Granny can experience some pride in having kept a well-run house, having married a good man and having raised normal, healthy children, she feels she has missed something very important in her life.)Google Scholar
  21. Welty, Eudora. “A Visit of Charity.” A Curtain of Green And Other Stories. N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1936. (Obliged to visit an old age home as a part of her “campfire girl” duties, an adolescent girl is at first repulsed and unable to conceive of the home’s residents as human, yet comes to recognize, in one reflective moment, the anguish and loneliness of one old woman she visits.)Google Scholar
  22. Welty, Eudora, “A Worn Path.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Dramcu Fourth Edition. Ed. X.J. Kennedy. (As an old black woman encounters many obstacles on her journey to the town clinic, she assesses her physical stamina, mental acumen, and courage. Through her struggles, she remains proud knowing that despite her age, she can still fulfill her role as her grandson’s chief caretaker.)Google Scholar
  23. Wharton, Edith. “Duration.” The World Over. N.Y.: Appleton-Century Co., Inc., 1936. (An insignificant, often slighted family member becomes an imperious, matriarchal family tyrant when she reaches her hundredth birthday.)Google Scholar
  24. Winslow, Thyra. “The Old Lady.” Blueberry Pie and Other Stories. N.Y.: Knopf, 1932. (about an elderly mother who wants her room left untouched.)Google Scholar
  25. Zugsmith, Leanne. “The Three Veterans.” 75 Short Masterpieces: Stories From the World’s Literature. Ed. Roger Goodman, N.Y.: Bantam, 1961. (orig. 1935) (Filtered largely through the perceptions of a middle-aged nurse, this story illustrates the all too prevalent denial of the old person’s uniqueness as a human being. In spite of others’ view of them as meddlesome, foolish old ladies with varicose veins, three elderly women who visit a doctor’s clinic regularly learn how to assert their human dignity and rebel against the stereotype imposed on them.)Google Scholar

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© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1988

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  • Geri Giebel Chavis

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