Now I Become Myself (poem) by May Sarton

May Sarton as a young woman

“Now I Become Myself” is a beloved poem by May Sarton (1912 – 1995) that captures the spirit of a well-examined life.

How often do we, especially women, show up to life as someone other than our true self? We’re taught to be people-pleasers, so we wear the face and show the demeanor we think others will expect, instead of being who we truly are.

May Sarton was an American poet, novelist, and memoirist who spent a lifetime learning who she was.

In her journals, best known of which are Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude, she explored isolation, love, relationships, sexual identity, success, failure, gratitude, nature, the seasons, and the joys and struggles of a creative life.

The 1993 collection of May Sarton’s poems (W.W. Norton, NY), encapsulates what she achieved with her body of poetry:

“Arranged chronologically, these poems reveal the full breadth of Sarton’s creative vision. Themes include the search for an inward order, her passions, the natural world, self-knowledge, and, in her latest poems, the trials of old age.

Moving through Sarton’s work, we see her at ease in both traditional forms and free verse, finding inspiration in snow over a dark sea, a cat’s footfall on the stairs, an unexpected love affair. Here is the creative process itself, its sources, demands, and joys – a handbook of the modern poetic psyche.”

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May Sarton 1937 painting by Polly Thayer StarrSelf-Searching Quotes from Journal of a Solitude
(1937  Portrait of May Sarton by Polly Thayer Starr)
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Now I become myself

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!

— From Collected Poems 1930 – 1993 by May Sarton © W.W. Norton, 1993


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Collected Poems of May Sarton, 1930 - 1993


16 Responses to “Now I Become Myself (poem) by May Sarton”

  1. I “discovered” May Sarton in the 60s when I was a young reader (I’m 64 now) and have loved ever since and still! Timeless. And now her words are even more relatable as I live alone (with a cat!)

  2. Just discovered one of her books at the age of 76. I wish I had been exposed to her writing earlier in my life. I love reading her journals. My city library does not carry even one book by May Sarton. So disappointing!

    • Kathy, it’s wonderful to discover an author no matter what stage of life. It’s surprising that your city library has none of her books! Perhaps you can explore an interlibrary loan.

  3. I get so (momentarily) angry when I stumble upon another great woman author who immediately speaks to my soul; who expresses EXACTLY my feelings and my thoughts when I believed only I had them. Who brings yet another woman into the blessed community of all women. Why do we remain so hidden still?
    Yet I am grateful that now, in this moment, at 78 years old…I have found her and she gives me comfort. Pass her songs along to others.

  4. Thankfully, I discovered May Sarton, from The Marginalian – and then; through future research, lead me here.
    As a woman, age 58, who lives alone, I feel grateful for this discovery. Wonderful expressions I feel – and couldn’t share.

  5. A local bookstore had a shelf of May on sale. I bought most of them and gifted every loved elder who would take one or two. Journal of Solitude is often sited as her best…but so many treasures to pick from!

  6. I am so happy to discover Mays writings. Why did it take so long to find her. Someone left her book “ the house by the sea” at Carlsbad State Beach for me to find

    • She was a wonderful, prolific writer. Sounds like your finding that book was meant to be! I’m most familiar with her memoirs and poetry, but I’d like to delve more into her novels as well.

  7. Beautifully written because I can feel her own self discovery as real experiences of a dignified well intergrated person… Beautiful!

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