“Now I Become Myself”

I have been dissolved and shaken / Worn other people’s faces” — May Sarton

My early introduction to May Sarton‘s work was through her diary, Journal of a Solitude. I was new to personal writing at the time, and I admired how Sarton gracefully shared her private and public worlds — her beloved garden; domestic life in New Hampshire; her conflicting needs for solitude and companionship. Reading more of her work over the years, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.

“Now I Become Myself” first struck me as a song of elder wisdom, a declaration of authentic power. Feeling her “own weight and density,” the poet has outgrown the petty insecurities of youth — including its sense of urgency. Yet the poem speaks to readers of all ages. I gave it to a friend on her 70th birthday and was thrilled to learn it is now one of her favorites. My friend was especially moved by the line, “Now there is time and Time is young.”  Which lines speak to you? –CL

Now I Become Myself
By May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before –”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

— Reprinted from Selected Poems of May Sarton edited by Serena Sue Hilsinger and Lois Brynes; W.W. Norton & Company; 1978–

–Top photo: Detail from “Book of Shadows,” an altered book, by Cindy La Ferle —

This post is part of a weekly poetry appreciation series.  To read more, please click on Poems to inspire in the CATEGORIES column at right. As always, I welcome your recommendations, too.

16 thoughts on ““Now I Become Myself”

  1. When we finally become our true selves, step into our own shoes and feel the newness of our selves, time does seem young, doesn’t it? At that self-defining moment, everything seems new, seen through our newly confident eyes. Beautiful verse, Cindy.

  2. I discovered May Sarton while in college. I had one of those long love affairs with her, and read whatever of hers I could get my hands on for that entire year. Thank you for sharing this verse. It’s like rediscovering a long-lost love.

  3. “Worn other people’s faces,
    Run madly, as if Time were there,”

    I could appreciate these two lines. I had May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude a while back. Couldn’t read it at the time – frame of mind thing going. I’ll try again in the summer.

  4. Cindy, I, too, fell in love with May Sarton’s work in my early writing days. In fact, a few summers ago, she and I spent a whole summer together. I was on a mission to read all of her journals, from this one you mention until the one she penned right before she died. I called this time my “Sarton Summer.” I collected and read many of her other books too. I especially enjoyed her fable about the woman and the donkey. 🙂

    Blessings to you for soulful writing!

  5. “Worn other people’s faces…” The story of my life, before I dared to wear my own face and follow my heart.

    May Sarton’s books came into my life just about two years ago. I didn’t even know how thirsty I was for her writing until I bought my first Sarton book, Journal of a Solitude and then followed with The House by the Sea. Several sit on the shelf over my desk but Journal of Solitude is my favorite. I see so much of myself (my craving for and practice of solitude) in her words.

  6. I thought I didn’t care for poetry but you’re introducing me to poets whose thoughts sing. I loved the idea that time is elastic and life is measured in our capacity to live it. And as a writer, I was particularly taken with this–
    “the shadow of a word
    As thought shapes the shaper
    Falls heavy on the page…”

    Thanks for posting this.

  7. “In this single hour I live/All of myself…”

    I love JoaS too, Cindy. Have not picked it up in years,but you’ve inspired me to do so.

  8. Cindy, thanks for reminding me about May Sarton. I haven’t read her work since college, and now I can see I must reintroduce myself – now that I can see exactly what she means. 🙂

  9. Cindy, you have a knack for finding the perfect words as well as writing them.
    I’ve heard of May Sarton, but not really taken the time to read much of her work. I am intrigued now as you can imagine.
    This was just that kind of wonderful.
    Thank you… again.

  10. “Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!”

    Today was the perfect day for me to read this poem for the first time. It’s perfection!

    Thanks for introducing me to it.

    Hope all is well with you and your Mom.

  11. Cindy, I love this poem. It’s rich with meaning, and I look forward to reading it over and over again to hear what speaks to me at different times. Right now, I’ve focused on “Now I become myself” and “As thought shapes the shaper.”

  12. wow, this is so moving! I am just now daring to wear my own face and discover the new self emerging through like the dawn of spring 😉 thanks Cindy! ~Jenn

  13. Pingback: Gotta have art | Cindy La Ferle's Home Office

  14. Cindy, thank you so much for publishing this poem. I have loved May Sarton’s work for years – it is delightful to see it being made available to a new audience.

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