The idea of “starting over” comes with the implication that something has been done before. You could be starting over in your career, you relationships, your education, or your physical or mental health. You could be trying to build something back up. Something I’ve found useful while trying to do this, is a shift in perspective. And poems about starting over can sometimes, give just that.
The last two years had us grappling with uncertainty as we navigated the new normal. However, the calendar year is starting over too, and a lot of us have been awaiting the new possibilities it brings. I want to remind myself to slow down and savour life in the coming year. And sometimes, slowing down requires the courage to detach from the commitments made by your past self. It comes with understanding and accepting that your current self wants different things. And somewhere along the way, we stumble on hope, and eventually belief, that starting over is a good thing.
Here’s a list of hopeful poems about starting over. I want to revisit them often as I remind myself to breathe easier in 2022. I hope you can find a line or two to hold on to, too.
Wild Geese By Mary Oliver [excerpt]
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Still I Rise By Maya Angelou [excerpt]
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Burning The Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye [excerpt]
Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Still Life With Ladder By Susan Rich [excerpt]
Today, the sky saved my life
caught between smoked rum and cornflower.
Today, there is a color I can’t name cruising past
the backdoor — it is the idea of color.
Cloudscapes evaporate like love songs
across lost islands, each a small bit coin of thought.
Notebook, 1981 By Eileen Myles [excerpt]
I was so willing to pull a page out of my notebook, a day, several bright days and live them as if I was only alive, thirsty, timeless, young enough, to do this one more time, to dare to have nothing so much to lose and to feel that potential dying of the self in the light as the only thing I thought that was spiritual,
What Seems Like Joy By Kaveh Akbar [excerpt]
how much history is enough history before we can agree
to flee our daycares to wash everything away and start over
leaving laptops to be lost in the wet along with housecats and Christ’s
own mother even a lobster climbs away from its shell a few
times a life but every time I open my eyes I find
I am still inside myself each epiphany dull and familiar
For a New Beginning by John O’Donohue [excerpt]
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
“Hope” is The Thing with Feathers By Emily Dickinson [excerpt]
“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —
And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —
If you enjoyed this list of poems about starting over, also check out:
Poems For When Life Is Just Hard, 12 of The Best Slam Poetry Performances To Leave You In Awe and 5 Poetry Challenges To Enrich Your Reading Life.