The word ‘goodbye’ is not as simple as one might first think. Certainly it signifies the end of a meeting between two people or perhaps groups of people. The significance is in the degree of finality of that parting. Also at play is the depth and emotional ties between the two parties. It could be as simple as ending a meeting but knowing that those involved will see each other again the very next day. The other extreme is when both parties know that it is very unlikely that they will ever see each other again. And of course, the emotions brought forward might be totally different if they two are mere acquaintances or life-long friends, or perhaps even more so, a couple involved in a life-long romance. Any such poem that addresses such a farewell is likely to be filled with an enormous amount of emotion, probably with much sadness, melancholy, or some bittersweet mixture.
One well known poet who often handled the topic of ‘goodbye’ was Anne Sexton. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1928, Sexton turned to poetry upon the advice of her therapist. She had struggled with mental illness and depression for much of her early life, and so she tried to find some solace in the words of poems. She went on to produce some of the era’s most heartfelt poetry, and Sexton was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1967. Her life ended tragically when she committed suicide after preparing for some of her works to be published. She didn’t want them published until after her death.
The Inventory of Goodbye
by Anne Sexton
Not all poems are written by famous, prize winning poets. For instance, there is this tale of a young man who met a young lady. He was tremendously attracted to her, but felt too timid to approach her. Sadly, she died and he never had the chance to know her. At her funeral, one of her friends told that young man that she really liked him. It should be no surprise that such a sad story would produce a very heart-felt and expressive piece of poetry.
Tell me Goodbye
by Michael Her
Not all ‘goodbyes’ are so tragic. We meet new people every day and, as often is the case, we say goodbye to others. It’s not at all unusual in today’s world of change and travel to say farewell to people that we have known for several years. Perhaps they are moving because of work or school. Or perhaps, we’re the one who is moving. Life offers us many opportunities, which sometimes require us to bring an end to friendships which we have had for many, many years. Such is the case with this next poem. I think the most telling part of this poem is at the end, when the writer explains that, even though the two friends are parting company, the friendship itself will never end — they will continue to be friends even in each other’s absence.
Through The Years