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Journal of a Solitude

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In this, her bestselling journal, May Sarton writes with keen observation and emotional courage of both inner and outer worlds: a garden, the seasons, daily life in New Hampshire, books, people, ideas―and throughout everything, her spiritual and artistic journey. "I am here alone for the first time in weeks," May Sarton begins this book, "to take up my 'real' life again at last. That is what is strange―that friends, even passionate love,are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore what is happening or what has happened." In this journal, she says, "I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths,to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there."

In this book, we are closer to the marrow than ever before in May Sarton's writing.

208 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1973

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About the author

May Sarton

176 books421 followers
May Sarton was born on May 3, 1912, in Wondelgem, Belgium, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938. An accomplished memoirist, Sarton boldly came out as a lesbian in her 1965 book Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Her later memoir, Journal of a Solitude, was an account of her experiences as a female artist. Sarton died in York, Maine, on July 16, 1995.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 494 reviews
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,742 followers
August 26, 2021
I've gone to quite a few “author talks” in my life. I'm a lit snob, and I'm busy, so I only take the time to listen to writers who are better at their practice than I am (too many!). I go to hear their stories, learn their quirks, find out what they're reading.

I've learned that all great writers have two things in common: they all read voraciously, and they all write every day of the work week.

Inevitably at these book talks, the authors will offer a “Q & A” and some young person will step up to the microphone to ask the same inane question: “Where do I start, if I want to be a writer?”

I always roll my eyes and groan inwardly. I know the author is groaning, too.

Young “aspiring writers” always want pixie dust, a magic wand, the leprechaun's number. They think they're going to uncover some secret (that, naturally, the famous author will share only with them in the auditorium) that no one's ever known before. They want to find a way that doesn't involve shedding their skin at the writing task every day, breaking the bones they've used for pens, the blood they've used to fill the inkjet.

The answer is always the same: read voraciously. Write every day.

If you read voraciously and you write every day, you may still suck at writing for a really long time, but eventually, you will get better. May Sarton knew this. She knew she had to write every day to be who she wanted to be, professionally, but she was still honest enough to contribute, “I hardly ever sit still without being haunted by the “undone” and the “unsent.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. It kinda sucks, to write every day. It's painful; it's pleasurable. It's never enough. It's rarely rewarded. I start the practice, myself, frequently, then life gets in the way, the excuses come, and it's over until it begins again.

So, you can imagine my mischievous grin when I discovered that May Sarton started her 1973 journal with the words: “Begin Here.”

Begin Here

It's a cue. For herself. For her reader. For all artists.

Begin Here.

Ms. Sarton's words, read last night, were powerful to the point of stopping me from unpacking boxes this morning. I've gone weeks without writing much of anything, and I wanted so badly to feel those keys dancing delicately under my fingertips this morning.

She's brilliant, this May Sarton. My latest mentor. I'm “reviewing” this journal before barely reading it; I don't want the pressure of rushing through it only to get to the end. I can see I'm going to be learning from this writer for a long time.

I go up to Heaven and down to Hell in an hour, and keep alive only by imposing upon myself inexorable routines.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,602 reviews2,575 followers
August 20, 2019
I savored this one over the span of five months; it’s so rich in insight that it’s best read just a few pages at a time. A poet and novelist, Belgian by origin but a New Englander by choice, Sarton (1912-1995) is now remembered primarily for her overtly lesbian works (e.g., Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing). Journal of a Solitude is a one-year account of her writing life in New Hampshire, mostly covering the frigid winter of 1970-1, when Sarton was also struggling with depression. The book dwells on the seasonal patterns of the natural world (shovelling snow, gardening, caring for animals) but also the rhythms of the soul – rising in hope but also falling into occasional, inevitable despair. “Am I too old to acquire the knack for happiness?” she wonders.

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for nearly a year now (and prone to melancholy for much longer), so I can certainly relate to Sarton’s descriptions of both the loneliness and the exhilarating freedom of the writer’s life: “People who have regular jobs can have no idea of just this problem of ordering a day that has no pattern imposed on it from without.” She wisely notes the necessity of both isolation and community for any creative spirit – “a balance between the need to become oneself and to give of oneself.” I took inspiration from her assertion that being a writer is a noble endeavor, a means of “creating the soul” afresh; “Each day, and the living of it, has to be a conscious creation.”

My library copy is bristling with red Post-it flags; I found lines that grabbed me on nearly every third page. There are almost too many brilliant quotes for me to copy out; I’ve bought my own secondhand paperback instead. As Italo Calvino opined, “during unenforced reading…you will come across the book which will become ‘your’ book...‘Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.” If that’s the case, Journal of a Solitude is on the top shelf in my personal library of classics. Next up will be her Collected Poems, then perhaps Mrs. Stevens.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,912 followers
January 15, 2018
Does anything in nature despair except man?

September 15th
I feel inadequate. I have made an open place, a place for meditation. What if I cannot find myself inside it?
For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose—to find out what I think, to know where I stand. I am unable to become what I see.

September 16th
I make the questions.
I also give the answers.


September 17th
It was a strange relationship, for he knew next to nothing about my life, really; yet below all the talk we recognized each other as the same kind. He enjoyed my anger as much as I enjoyed his. Perhaps that was part of it. Deep down there was understanding, not of the facts of our lives so much as of our essential natures.

September 20th
“There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It's like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction—every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it's really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.” P.

September 22nd
I am losing the ability to hold a conversation with people. My voice drowns. My mind wanders. I am holding on to those written words, clinging to them like they were the last piece of wood of a fragile boat that the sea swallowed before. I am holding on to that last trace of whatever it is that makes me human.
...but, what are we looking at? A puppy starving for a glance that fearfully walks away after it gets it; overwhelmed, confused. Connections and detachment fight for a place inside conflicted minds, echoing the struggles of those lonesome beasts of the steppes.

September 23rd
It is raining. I sit by the window and start to look at the world I know, where the jasmines and some white lilies briefly live. Nothing compares to the scent of the jasmines, I think. As I repeat that particular thought inside my head, the rest of them start to ramble. Trapped in the inner world as they contemplate what's outside. They blend with reverie and solitude and begin to restlessly create memories. Brand new memories of things that I have never experienced. A sense of nostalgia towards things that were never real. A feeling of loss at what I have never had. Possibilities are endless and I cannot control anything.
Except the presence of those simple jasmines. And how their fragrance make me feel. For I do not want a mere surface of bright colors or unusual forms. I want everything.
Or nothing at all.

September 25th
This room is a place in the world. Here I breathe, I dream, I read, I write. Do I live? I do feel that universal sense of discontent with life that I wish I could shake off at once. Happiness must exist, somewhere. A moment, a day, a year. A book, a place, a song, a person. And then I think—that inevitable activity that haunts us everyday. And then. And then I am not sure if I want to find that happiness and belong to the flock.
Even though I believe that I am already a part of one.
But mirrors await. Poetry emerges from every nook. Time, unforgiving time. Time is everything.
Give me a day and I will give you a year of thoughts. With time, I will accept. I will regret. Fortunately or against my wishes, I will also start to forget. I was never able to forget completely. But things become quiet memories. It all starts to lose its brightness. Its warmth. I thought about someone today. Those faintly aloof eyes.
I smiled. A colder memory now.

September 28th
I am an ornery character, often hard to get along with. The things I cannot stand, that make me flare up like a cat making a fat tail, are pretentiousness, smugness, the coarse grain that often shows itself in a turn of phrase. I hate vulgarity, coarseness of soul. I hate small talk with a passionate hatred. ...it is a waste of time to see people who have only a social surface to show. I will make every effort to find out the real person, but if I can't, then I am upset and cross. Time wasted is poison.

September 29th
'How does one grow up?' I asked a friend the other day. There was a slight pause; then she answered, “By thinking.”

The thing I want to control the most.


So intimate, so special, so familiar. These journals reminded me of a book I absolutely adore.
A brushstroke of sweet, melancholic poetry on every page. The deafening sounds of a silent introspection. I have found more words to describe the inexplicable, since my own are never enough.
I am accused of disloyalty because I talk about things that many people would keep to themselves...I am not at all discreet about anything that concerns feeling. My business is the analysis of feeling.

May Sarton merged nature with solitude and, as a result, this beautifully crafted book came into existence. Journals filled with her impressions on the natural world, relationships of all sorts, the creative process and the isolation that it inevitably requires, the ebb and flow of her depression, the moments of peace in between.
A walk through the depths of her complex soul has been portrayed with a most exquisite and honest writing.

Jan 05, 16
* Also on my blog.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,178 reviews1,936 followers
February 6, 2015
4.5 stars rounded up
This is the journal of a year in May Sarton’s life; 1972-3 when she was 58. Sarton is known as a poet and novelist, but also as a writer of journals periodically and this is one of those. These journals are very honest accounts of her life and cover relationships, lesbianism, her periods of depression and melancholy, solitariness (hence the title), emotions of all types and most especially nature.
My prior knowledge of May Sarton was limited and picked up on her via Aubrey and the 500 great books by women; many thanks Aubrey.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the journal were her descriptions of the natural world, most especially of her garden and the flowers and creatures in it. Flowers and their scent were clearly very important to Sarton;
"The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures to make up for a few disasters."
“A gray day . . . but, strangely enough, a gray day makes the bunches of daffodils in the house have a particular radiance, a kind of white light. From my bed this morning I could look through at a bunch in the big room, in that old Dutch blue-and-white drug jar, and they glowed. I went out before seven in my pajamas, because it looked like rain, and picked a sampler of twenty-five different varieties. It was worth getting up early, because the first thing I saw was a scarlet tanager a few feet away on a lilac bush–stupendous sight! There is no scarlet so vivid, no black so black.”
“When I am alone the flowers are really seen; I can pay attention to them. They are felt as presences. Without them I would die. Why do I say that? Partly because they change before my eyes. They live and die in a few days; they keep me closely in touch with process, with growth, and also with dying. I am floated on their moments.”
She also writes with great compassion about the wild creatures who inhabit her world and the stories about the feral cat who makes a home nearby are heart rending.
Sarton writes her prose as only a poet can and with great honesty and vulnerability and pulls no punches about her own faults and frailties, her worries about her work and its reception and her love affairs.
She also periodically makes comments about current affairs (like the death of De Gaulle) and will then drop in a sentence or two about meeting Virginia Woolf!
It reads very easily, despite feeling fragmented at times. Sarton is engaging and thoughtful. It was a real pleasure to read.

Profile Image for Jamie.
Author 1 book23 followers
June 15, 2007
Sarton's writing amazes me. It's not everyone who can say, "Hey, I'm going to shut myself in a house for a really long time and write about watering my plants and my depression, and it's going to be really beautiful and interesting." But Sarton makes it happen. The eloquence and introspection that makes up this book is absolutely fascinating.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,241 reviews533 followers
December 12, 2014
I have now spent 3 months reading Sarton's journal of a year of her life in Nelson, New Hampshire, a journal which reflects her love of the old colonial home and the vast gardens she had cultivated there, her nightly skirmishes with local wildlife who wanted home access (raccoon, feral cats), the neighbors who tended to her land and road, her flowers and pets, her many friends, acquaintances and above all, perhaps, her writing. Sarton also exposes her core: her occasional bouts of depression, her ecstasy upon creating a poem or seeing the perfect sky or perfect flower in just the right beam of light. We learn of her belief in feminism, her homosexuality and something of her relationships, her quasi-religious beliefs (as she does not fit herself into any belief system), past acquaintance with Virginia Woolf and others.

What a life she led. And the year of this journal was, in fact, a transition year for her, as she contemplated and ultimately accepted her status as a "solitude". She provides what, for me, is an essential description of this meaning for her. From August 27th entry:

There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge
and to maintain balance within it a precarious business.
But I must not forget that, for me, being with people
or even with one beloved person for any length of time
without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I
feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time
alone in which to mull over any encounter, and to
extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has
really happened to me as a consequence of it.

(loc 2045)

And she writes in her final entry of this journal on September 30,

I begin to have intimations, now, of a return to
some deep self that has been too absorbed and too
battered to function for a long time. That self tells
me that I was meant to live alone, meant to write the
poems for others---poems that seldom in my life have
reached the one person for whom they were intended.

(loc 2188)

Here she does not wallow; she sees the reality of her life and experience and accepts the future and what she will do with it---go forth and write.

There are moments also of humor, moments of beauty, moments of reflection about friends who are living life well or with difficulty. and always there is nature and the garden. From May 23:

It is a catastrophe to have five baby woodchucks
under the barn, though they are adorable, like small
toy bears. Of course, they have eaten down the holly-
hocks. But I take these disasters more philosophically
than I used to. I am learning not to take it too
personally, I guess, and not to mind failure. The
garden is growth and change and that means loss as
well as constant new treasures to make up for a few
disasters. The blue pansies are wonderful this year.
Blue is the most exciting color in the garden, I think.
And these blues are everywhere now: Virginia bluebells,
grape hyacinths, blue primroses, and wood anemones.
Soon there will be bluebells in the little wood and
wild phlox here and there.
(loc 1621)

This one brief paragraph takes her from potential despair to a lesson learned from nature to an observation of beauty to anticipation of more beauty to come. Is it any wonder that I have savored this reading.

There is really so much here. Obviously, there is insight into the life of a poet dealing with her own loves, losses and life. There is also discussion of some of the important influences on her life and work---both the people and her emotional and philosophical underpinnings.

Very highly recommended.

A copy of this book was received from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
September 17, 2012
May Sarton (1912-1995) was a lesbian writer. Born in Belgium, her family escaped to England when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, the incident that triggered the First World War. One year later, her family moved again, this time to Boston. In 1945, she met her partner for 13 years, Judy Matlack. She wrote many poetry, novels and non-fiction books but she was most known for her memoirs. This book, Journal of a Solitude is said to be her best.

This memoir includes almost daily entries of her life for the span of one year (1972-1973). The title is about her preference to be alone when she writes poetry, the literature form she likes best. I am still to see a poetry book by her but I have a feeling that most of her poems are sad because this book is also sad. Don't get me wrong, though, she is not a hermit living alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods. In the book, she mentioned about her visitors too like my favorite Virginia Woolf (also a lesbian) and other writers whose names just don't ring a bell. In fact, I did not know anything about May Sarton until this book. Thanks to the 501 Must Read Books for recommending this to me.

Sarton was 60 when she wrote this book. It was just two years after her partner for 13 years died. So, naturally, she was still grieving. However, she did not mention her grief in the book (denial? trying to forget?). Rather she made herself busy doing the household chores, tend to her garden, teaching at the university and meeting with her friends. Superficially, everything seems to be ordinary except that when you read her journals, you know that she is still deeply hurt inside. Then since she was a good poet (based on what I read in her journals), her words were lyrical and heartfelt if not magical. I think those are what make this book really loved by women who are feminists and/or lovers of good literature. Think of Anne Frank at 60 who knows how to write good poetry and instead of hiding inside the library, her emotions are the ones hidden inside her heart and poured out only via the choicest and the most beautiful rhythmic verses.

My favorite part is about Perley Cole, his gardener. Widowed by his wife due to her long illness, he had to continue working tending Sarton's garden. He died in the ambulance and he had no service and was cremated. Sarton writes: "It is the loneliest dying and the loneliest death I ever heard of. How many times he has said to me in these last months, 'I never thought it would end like this.'... How is one to accept such a death? What have we come to when people are shoveled away, as if that whole life of hard work, dignity, self-respect, could be discarded at the end like an old beer can?"

I liked this book.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
August 3, 2015
4.5 stars

Thoreau found it in Massachusetts. Dillard found it in Virginia. May Sarton found it in New Hampshire. Solitude: “Whatever peace I know, rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it.” Her prose is the embodiment of solitude: slow-paced, thought provoking.

How can what seems like nonsensical talk, be so transformative? Clever contemplation helps. This is prose you savor, otherwise, you miss something within the sentences. At times, it is like reading poetry: see the words, digest them, allow them to infect you with their poison. Read this book while you’re alone, and you feel the aloneness, you smell the flowers, sense the pain. Read it around noise, and the book, not the noise, is irritating. For the book is silent, slow moving, so perceptive that it taunts your noisy environment.
In this house the light has always been a presence—right now in a brilliant blue-green band on the sofa in the cozy room. A half hour ago it spotlit a pot of yellow chrysanthemums in there. I look out at trees leafless now except for one maple, where high up against the blue there is still branch after branch of translucent warm gold. The leaves sift down one by one like notes in music. This is the light we have been deprived of this queer autumn of tropical rains and gray skies, and it is good to have a taste of it.

Light, sun, flowers, a leafless tree. Leaves resembling musical notes as they fall. How does she do this, savoring the moment with the solitude’s eye so that I, the reader, am forced to do the same? For starters, it is all jotted down in journal form, as it occurs. This is effective—which is why I find myself irritated when I try to read it in anyplace else but silence.

She is on a “pilgrimage inward.” This is really what this book is about. This pilgrimage inward. The act of letting go of oneself in order to find one’s self. It is the contemplation of a tortured soul. The self exploration of mind, body and spirit.

Virginia Woolf is called upon a few times in this narrative of part-feminine discourse (she was one of Sarton's writing idols). Scary, when you think of it, because we know how it all ended for Woolf and Sarton discusses clinical depression at great length in this book. Nonetheless, introspection coupled with observation, dazzles:

An island of tall fir and spruce, of many-colored soft mosses, blueberry patches, and a long open meadow that rolls down to a salt-water pool. We come here to a timeless world, steeped in tradition, where for a week or so we are sheltered by the safety and comfort of the Victorian era when the many-roomed, shingled ark of a house was built by Anne’s father, in the 1890’s. We come back to all the familiar joys –sitting on our balcony to watch the silent sails glide past up the Sound and the ever-changing clouds and light and shadow on the water and on the hills, gathering mussels or blueberries for supper, making bunches of wildflowers, finding tiny trees and cushions of moss for Japanese gardens to be created when we are home again, going to bed with a candle up the great staircase (there is no electricity), sinking into our twin beds and talking for hours side by side before we fall asleep.

She blasts me with lyricism like this and it doesn't matter that I'm a thirty-something and she is a fifty-something because when she plays, I am singing her song. It does matter that I, too, have experienced this solitude that she speaks of, intentional moments of introspection and seclusion in the teeny town I've called my temporary home. I read and I know that it is necessary, to require solitude at my age, just as it is necessary, for Sarton to still ponder, seek, and wander at her age.

I only wish that the seeking could have had some resolution. But really, does it need to, or am I leaning on her story for my own trajectory? Maybe it is as she says: "we write toward what we will become from where we are.”
One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private, and one must also believe in the vehicle for expressing them, in the talent.

Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,254 reviews451 followers
September 17, 2015
I read this book over a couple of weeks, as journal entries need to be read a few at a time for me in order to maintain freshness. May Sarton lived alone for a year in her house in New Hampshire, but it was not exactly in solitude. She maintained a pretty full schedule of speaking engagements, vacations, and visits with friends, not to mention all of the visitors she entertained, and the neighbors she enjoyed. Her journal entries over the year were very honest and full of insights. I'll be reading more, beginning with "Plant Dreaming Deep" which concerns the time before 1973 when this one was written.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,435 reviews1 follower
November 14, 2016
1.99 Kindle Special

May Sarton was born in Belgium, her family moved to Boston, Massachusetts as WWI approached. She began writing poetry at age twelve, she also wrote novels and later in life a children's book. When she started this journal which was written over the period of a year she was battling depression and examing different relationships in her life. This book won't be for everyone although I savored every word. If you enjoy solitude, nature, flowers and deep insight I encourage you to read it. I will definitely read it again because it is cathartic.

On a personal note I began journaling in 2001 because I needed an outlet for all I was feeling after the terroist attacks. I also write poetry which began in 1998 after my Dad died unexpectedly. Writing for me is great therapy. I enjoy times of solitude to get centered.
Profile Image for John Walsh.
Author 20 books10 followers
March 23, 2012
I never thought I could enjoy the diary of a woman who likes to garden. Of course, that's not what the book is 'about' and I found this a very enjoyable trip into the mind of a person who I'd probably never get along with in real life. Sarton has an ability to make simple observations about her life seem like major revelations on the nature of all lives. I have picked up several of her other books and will read those after I've gotten a few more horror, SF and weird books under my belt. Her civilized life and her appreciation of solitude, without the fussiness of the Me Generation self-centeredness that so often spoils this kind of thing with its self-congratulation on doing one's own thing, are to be treasured. A very quiet book, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Profile Image for Lynn.
Author 1 book4 followers
October 24, 2016
For a book with "solitude" in the title, a lot of her friends sure come over.
Profile Image for Marina.
160 reviews17 followers
October 5, 2021
<>. ▪️Este pasado mes de septiembre me ha resultado muy difícil concentrarme. He estado tan cansada y agotada que cada vez que intentaba leer se me cerraban los ojos, así que probé comprarme un libro pequeñito, estilo diario y que evoca en cierta manera el otoño. Lo he terminado y estoy contenta: creo que vuelvo a recuperar la capacidad de concentrarme en cualquier momento y lugar. <> habla precisamente de esa capacidad reflexiva que utilizamos cuando estamos a solas, pero lo hace centrándose en una soledad que ocurre solo en un lugar concreto: en la casa y en el jardín de la propia autora. Ese detalle me ha hecho pensar mucho acerca de los diferentes tipos de soledad y de cómo cada una de ellas crece de una forma diferente según el espacio en el que le esté permitido desarrollarse. La autora tiene una rutina muy marcada de escritura y jardinería porque dedica su vida prácticamente a ello. Pero solo escribe cuando está en casa, en su lugar. No escribe en cafeterías, ni en transportes, ni en casas ajenas. Pienso que ese tipo de soledad es una soledad muy dulce en la que más que sentirte perdido te puedes llegar a sentir muy acogido. También es cierto que los hogares solitarios, si no crecen con y para la persona que lo habita, pueden volverse muy hostiles. Un ejemplo es como en algunos pasajes la autora menciona lo triste que se siente cuando no hay flores en casa, prácticamente dice que no está completa y que algo no funciona a su alrededor. Pienso que esta soledad es de las más importantes y es de vital importancia tratarla con amor y respeto. Pero el otro tipo de soledad, del que May Sarton no habla tanto, es ese que atraviesa muchos más espacios de la vida porque, simplemente, se mueve contigo. Va allá donde tú vayas e incluso bebe de fijarse en los demás. Cuantas más actividades tenga, más crece. ¿Puede ser que esta última soledad eche de menos a la primera? Que todas esas formas de acompañamiento no sean sino pequeños y dolorosos avisos de lo importante que es darle un espacio cuidado a tus reflexiones, un espacio en semejanza al mundo de cada uno. No sé si tiene algún sentido, pero en los diarios de Sarton me ha parecido que la soledad se sentía realmente cómoda. No tengo esa sensación con otras obras que me transmiten una angustia y una soledad bastante más carnales: como si nadie las quisiera, como si vivieran sin casa y decidieran agarrarse a uno tan fuerte que hace daño. La de May Sarton no, esta ha sido una soledad que abraza, de las que sí gusta experimentar. Igual debería construir poquito a poquito un lugar para cada una de las cosas que me sobrevienen y dejar de abandonarlas ahí, a su suerte, sujetas a un cuerpo que no termina de aceptarlas. 🌹
Profile Image for AJ Nolan.
793 reviews9 followers
August 25, 2011
A friend lent me this book many months ago, but last week the timing was finally right to read it, and I'm so glad that I waited for the right time, when I could sit and be quiet with the book. The journal could be read fast - it is a slim book - but I read it over the course of a few days, copying out long passages in my journal so that I likely transcribed half the book. The journal was one of those experiences of reading someone who is writing your experience. I have too many quotes to write them here, but here is a key observation:

"One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private." p. 60

Oh, and I found a quote that is going at the top of some of my syllabi:

"Whatever college does not do, it does create a climate where work is demanded and where nearly every student finds him or herself meeting the demand with powers he did not know he had." p. 70

Also, advice to live by:

"I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal." p. 89

Also, I recognized myself in these words:

"I asked myself the question, 'What do you want of your life?' and I realized with a start of recognition and terror, 'Exactly what I have - but to be commensurate, to handle it all better." p. 101

And on depression:

"I feel myself sucked down into the quicksand that isolation sometimes creates, a sense of drowning, of being literally engulfed." p. 107

And finally, this bit of hopeful observation:

"perhaps we write toward what we will become from where we are." p. 207
Profile Image for Víctor .
234 reviews4 followers
January 20, 2023
Después de conquistarme con Anhelo de Raíces, May Sarton me vuelve a sorprender con esta lectura todavía más profunda e íntima que la anterior.

Es uno de esos libros que se deben disfrutar lentamente mientras vamos conociendo a la autora gracias a sus reflexiones sobre la posición de la mujer, la sexualidad o la depresión.

Este diario me ha parecido muy personal y gris, porque aún tratando diversos temas, todo gira en torno a la tan dura y a veces necesaria soledad.
Profile Image for Iris ☾ (dreamer.reads).
443 reviews885 followers
June 3, 2022
El año pasado por estas fechas me dejé llevar por una lectura que me sorprendió, me relajó y me hizo soñar con una realidad muy diferente a la mía. “Anhelo de raíces”(encontraréis mi reseña por aquí), me dio a conocer a May, una mujer con un estilo poético pulcro, llena de sombras, de dudas y de añoranza. En “Diario de una soledad”, pasamos un año a su lado, acompañadas de sus pensamientos, miedos y reflexiones.

Este pequeña intimidad contiene una vida, batallas perdidas, sueños negados, duelos, tristezas pero también esperanza, alegrías y naturaleza. May sabe como no aburrir al lector, logra dosificar la información que ofrece, incluso brindar muchos temas de un gran abanico de posibilidades. Lo personal se junta con lo profesional y lo literario tiene gran peso gracias a las menciones de anécdotas autoras y autores famosos, coetáneos suyos que pudo conocer (Woolf, Bowen, West…).

Esta maravillosa escritora tiene la insólita capacidad de penetrar en tus emociones más recónditas, aquellas incluso que guardas bloqueadas o quizá encerradas. Qué bien plasma la soledad que siente, ese mundo idílico que se destruye desde el interior y que solo se puede reconstruir con la fuerza de la voluntad y un empeño extraordinario.

Pero si me quedo con algo es con la compañía que nos brinda el jardín de May, sus flores, el cambio de estaciones y los visitantes que recibe su hogar. Personas que vienen y van, animales salvajes que irrumpen, tormentas y cambios temporales que destrozan o hacen renacer plantaciones. La naturaleza es un personaje más, que sostiene y apoya a la narradora en su lucha diaria.

En conclusión, tengo claro que leer a May siempre será agradable y reconfortante; supone una carga de energía y a la vez un choque con la cruda realidad. Al final, no deja de ser una desconocida que nos relata su día a día de una manera tan bella que resulta sumamente evocadora. Poco más que añadir más allá de que os recomiendo sin duda su lectura, sobre todo si deseáis calma y realidad.
Profile Image for Allison Floyd.
490 reviews57 followers
December 25, 2008
The author's fixation on flowers and fluffy critters, coupled with her intense depressive streak, results in a journal that often reads like Mary Engelbreit having a bad day. A really bad day. Never having been much for nature poetry--nature's pretty, nature's nice, I've just never felt the urge to rhapsodize it and I can't get behind poets who do--I found it difficult to relate. This was disappointing, as I do identify with much of what she talks about here: the love/hate relationship with solitude ("For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self," she writes and man, do I hear her on that), her struggles with rage, and her need to question and examine her experiences. Overall, though, it hit something of a flat note for me, again possibly because the setting and motifs she chooses for her thematic preoccupations aren't really my bag. But the woman gets mad props for being in her late fifties at the time she wrote this and announcing that she still doesn't have it figured out, still finds peace and calm elusive. With the main goal of adult life seeming to be that of being okay, or at least preserving this appearance at all costs, I have a lot of respect for her refusal to do this. Sarton writes brave, honest prose laced with beautiful, tender moments with people and animals, including sheeps! While I didn't have the deep soul connection with this book that I wanted and expected to have, it's an inspiring study in one intensely sensitive person's efforts to brave worlds outer and inner and chronicle her experiences.
Profile Image for gwayle.
661 reviews49 followers
February 28, 2015
One of the reasons I was so struck by this book is that my expectations were wildly off the mark. From the title alone, knowing nothing of May Sarton, I was expecting pristine and Zen-like wisdom, stones rubbed smooth by the cleansing waters of solitude. I was expecting a calm and collected mind; I was expecting someone I could aspire to be.

What I was not expecting—and what I got—was a soul sister, a deeply imperfect and introspective mind plagued by insecurities and anxieties and tempestuous emotions. Sarton doesn't airbrush herself, and her insights are hard won. There are tons of great quotes in here. One of my favorites: "I woke in tears this morning. I wonder whether it is possible at nearly sixty to change oneself radically. Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level? If I cannot, I shall lose the person I love. There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour—put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me."

I was riveted by Sarton's soaring highs and agonizing lows. She's like a walking wound: by turns she flings herself on the world, then she retreats to her rural New England haven to distill her experiences into poems. She must have been a handful, to say the least, and I love her for this, for her intensity and her expressiveness and her vulnerability. And she writes about it so, so beautifully.

In these journal entires Sarton also lovingly records the dramas of the natural world—the shifts in weather, the progress of her garden. She may have isolated herself from people but never from the flowers, the stray cats, the goings on of the adjoining farm, the storms. In fact, I am reminded of Adrienne Rich's "Storm Warnings." In that poem the speaker draws the curtains on the storm (the one outside but more importantly the interior one): "These are the things we have learned to do / Who live in troubled regions." Certainly no stranger to "troubled regions," Sarton never seems to manage the curtains, another thing I love her for.

Needless to say, my May Sarton crush will almost certainly propel me to Plant Dreaming Deep and perhaps The House by the Sea one day soon.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
August 14, 2020
“There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business."

I read this 1992 Journal because friend and poet JM. who lives alone, suggested it to me, as she is reading and loving it. It’s a journal of a year in solitude where she, May Sarton, nearing sixty, takes stock of her life. She’s a lesbian, feminist, writer of poetry, fiction, jurnals, essays, though maybe I know her best as a poet. And I have ordered her book about approaching eighty (years) though I am more than a decade from there, but you know, I like to be prepared, just in case I am lucky enough to get the chance to share that age with her. She writes a lot about the centering aspects of nature, gardening, cats, raccoons, neighbors, long time friends, and wonders if approaching sixty she can really truly fall in love (she suspects yes and seems to be doing just that ).

Sarton tries to figure out how to balance her need for friends with her need for solitude. She tries to figure out her bouts of anger. And also depression:

“Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”

“The reasons for depression are not so interesting as the way one handles it, simply to stay alive.”

My chief takeaways: 1) to understand my own need for solitude (I haven’t had as much of it as I might like with this full house during the pandemic); 2) to help me understand my friend’s need for it, and her struggle with depression; 3) to re-read some of Sarton’s poetry; 4) to reread Virginia Woolf, whom Sarton loves dearly and makes a great case for her brilliance, and 4) to try to commit to my own journal (or blog) of a year. This pandemic would have been a good time to keep a journal, but I didn't do it, haven't done one for years. I guess I can start anytime. Maybe my birthday, in January.
Profile Image for Bon Tom.
856 reviews55 followers
January 26, 2022
What a beaut of a book! One of dose almost poems in prose, that can only come from life lived to the full, masterfully turned into words.
Profile Image for Patty.
2,322 reviews100 followers
May 16, 2013
I had not planned to bring this book with me on my vacation, but apparently I needed to finish it. Turns out it is very relevant to my journey towards retirement.

I like the fact that Sarton calls her journal "a" solitude. It is clear to me that each opportunity for solitude, aloneness, would be and should be very different. It has been true for me. I have gone on retreat several times lately and each time there is something different I need to work on.

Sarton was 58 at the start of this journal. My present age. We are in different places in history and in our own lives. She has coped with trying to establish her own framework for her craft. I have always had work to frame my life, to set my schedule. Soon I will have to do it for myself. I did not do it well thirty years ago, the last time I was unemployed. The question of course is will I be able to do it now?

Much of this journal includes thoughts about women's places in the world. Something we still struggle with, but times have changed. It was fascinating to see the changes of the 1970's through Sarton's eyes.

Glad I read this, need to read more by and about May Sarton. I recommend this book to anyone interested in writing, women or recent history.
Profile Image for Dorothee Lang.
Author 8 books34 followers
April 6, 2012
It was the first paragraph, included in a review, that made me go and order the book:

"I am here alone for the first time in weeks to take up my 'real' life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love,are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore what is happening or what has happened... I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths, to the matrix itself."

From this journal, there is so much that i marked. Sarton observes her own solitude, the change in seasons and moods, internal and external.

A central thought of Sarton's journal: that being in a difficult place is maybe part of being a poet or writer, or just anyone who is open to the world.

PS: a more detailed note with more quotes and references to related books is up in my blog: http://virtual-notes.blogspot.de/2012...
Profile Image for Krysten.
468 reviews16 followers
January 8, 2016
Can I fault a book for being less than I wanted it to be? Can I fault Sarton for having a solitude that looks very different from mine?

I thought this book would be better titled Journal of an Introvert Who Kinda Resents Her Many Social Engagements. I'm a very solitary person and this book - Sarton's life - felt crowded to me. It dealt more with external events than internal, and some of the best insights about solitude were not from Sarton's herself but quoted from others.

The parts that were good were very good, but I didn't learn anything about the lone wolf lifestyle than I already know, except that apparently *anything* can count as solitude as long as you're a poet. Perhaps I'll write a Journal of a Hermitude and show you what's what.
Profile Image for میعاد.
Author 7 books217 followers
September 29, 2020
خیلی دوستش داشتم. از اون دست کتاب‌هایی که برای من جذاب و درگیرکننده‌ست. گویا ترجمه هم شده اما هنوز چاپ نشده. امیدوارم ترجمهٔ مناسبی ازش منتشر شه.
Profile Image for Shoug.
204 reviews105 followers
June 27, 2020
اكتشفت هذا الكتاب ببداية فترة الحجر الصحي وشدني عنوانه لاعتقادي أنه بيقدم لي تجربة مشابهة بشكل أو بآخر للتجربة اللي كنا نمر فيها، لكن ماري سارتون ما كانت بعزلة أو وحدة فعلية، كانت هي فارضتها على نفسها ومع ذلك تتشكى من وحدتها؟ ما حبيت فكرة أنه عشان تكون كاتب/شاعر/مبدع لازم تعاني روحيا ونفسيا وأنه الفن ما يطلع إلا من رحم هذي المعاناة. وحسيت هذا اللي كانت تحاول تسويه.

بغض النظر عن كل هذا حبيت هذي المذكرات (ودائما أحب كل المذكرات اللي أقراها) لأني فضولية وأحب أعرف كيف الناس يفكرون ويعيشون. وللأمانة فيه كم فكرة حلوة بالكتاب. واستمتعت وأنا أقرأ عن روتينها اليومي يمكن هذا أكثر شي عجبني مع إني لاحظت أنه هذا أكثر شي ضايق بعض القراء، لكن يومياتها عن الزراعة وتنظيف البيت وحيواناتها جلبت لي سكينة وألفة وكان لطيف وحميمي إني أقرا عن هذي التفاصيل.
Profile Image for Callie.
645 reviews21 followers
March 20, 2012
THANK YOU, my goodreads friend Elizabeth for alerting me to the existence of this book. I LOVED it and if I could give it ten stars, I would. Very rarely does one find a writer that feels almost like kin, or more than kin. A twin soul. People who love to read know the extreme pleasure derived from reading passages that express precisely your own thoughts. I found passages like that over and over in this book. I am the kind of reader who likes to clip along usually and get the gist of what a writer is saying but not with this book, the writing is too good. I wanted to read slowly and reread and savour every sentence. Perhaps because May Sarton is primarily a poet, her prose feels deeper, richer, more refined. It has gravity.

I feel like I did when I first stumbled on Thoreau's Walden when I was nineteen. I need to buy this book and be able to underline and make notes at will and return to it often for its wisdom and beauty, its nourishment. I will also hunt down everything by May Sarton and read it all!

Here are some passages:

"There is really only one possible prayer: Give me to do everything I do in the day with a sense of the sacredness of life. Give me to be in your presence, God, even though I know it only as absence."

"But in our effete American civilization few people are willing to pay the price of anything--a garden, children, a good marriage, a work of art. And they resent the small price they manage to pay."

"The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures to make up for a few disasters."

"My faults too have been those of excess; I too have made emotional demands without being aware of what I was asking; I too have imagined that I was giving when I was battering at someone for attention. And it is just because I am aware of this that I am both kind and constantly alarmed and upset by a presence in my life that I did not want, that has imposed itself willy-nilly, and that finally creates repulsion because in it I must face my own faults magnified and distorted."
Profile Image for Valerie.
699 reviews39 followers
July 29, 2011
This book was absolutely wonderful, and I recently re-read it because I love the descriptive and picturesque prose that Eleanor Marie Sarton, pen name was May Sarton, uses throughout the book. All through this book, I was actually there, or present, feeling this lady's emotions and thoughts. What a great loss to American literature when she died in 1995. I rarely enjoy these types of biographical journals, but this one stood out, as Ms. Sarton is very, very good at being able to put into words the human experience, and personally, her human experience. I have not read all of her books yet, but I am on track to rectify this. I loved her description of how she moved to a house on the seaside of Maine because she felt she needed a change from living in a home in a small town. Her descriptions of the surrounding countryside, and planting flowers, and how she dealt with her writing career may sound on the surface mundane, but I assure you, it is anything but. This book has stayed with me since the time I first read it, and I am sure that it will be with me for a long time to come. I believe that Ms. Sarton is one of the truly unsung literary giants of the 20th century in the United States. I had not heard of her; I just happened to pick this book up at the library and checked it out because I thought it sounded quite poetic for a journal. I am so glad that I did; I have read books my whole life, and know the names and works of many authors, but I cannot figure out why I had never heard of May Sarton, until serendipity played a role. I am looking forward to reading her other works very much!
Profile Image for Anastasiia Mozghova.
373 reviews569 followers
March 30, 2023
a torn poet searching for serenity not as an ultimate destination, but as a guiding light and a place that one can enjoy from time to time, never forever. it's a simple book that brought me a lot of joy! reading about someone's day-to-day life calms me down and helps me enjoy my own routine even more.
30 reviews
July 5, 2010
May Sarton is a staggering writer. This journal of prose, reads like poetry. She consciously observes everything: from daily, physical minutia, (she is a gardener,) to her own psychological motivations, to spiritual implications. There is no place she won't look, no thing too unimportant to have meaning. By observing with honesty, and sharing her weaknesses, she gives the reader permission to do the same. Nothing gets shelved (stuffed away) in her unconscious. It feels as if she comes to each moment unadorned and raw. A poetess, she is often in pain and lonely.

For many summers I lived down the road from May Sarton, in New Hampshire, but I had never read anything by her. What a power! A loner, highly sensitive and brilliant, she uses words as a surgeon uses a knife, to cut away what doesn't serve.

"I hate small talk with a passionate hatred. Why? I suppose because any meeting with another human being is collision for me now. It is always expensive and I will not waste my time."

She's not everyone's read. For me, she was a treasure.

Profile Image for Violet.
117 reviews34 followers
August 28, 2020
It took me so long to get through this journal because I started it on ebook but then flew through the rest after checking it out at the library. May has taught me so much about solitude--about the nature of my own soul. I feel as if I have been forgiven and given permission to be myself all at the same time. Her words broke me apart and put me back together again. As non-native New Englanders living in states bordering each other, I believe we sought out similar things in life: quietude, beauty, discipline--a place for words to come easy, translating our tangled thoughts into something coherent and meaningful without distraction. A chance to really see inside of ourselves. This journal gave me that, and now the future no longer feels as dark or foreboding.
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