As an introvert, I am familiar with the concept of solitude. My idea of the perfect Sunday is waking up late, going for a hike with my dog, working on my latest writing project, and curling up on the couch with a good book. I am completely content to be by myself; in fact, being alone is how I recharge and get ready to face the world. Loud parties and late nights have never been my notion of the ideal weekend. Still, I have a complicated relationship with solitude. While I crave it, I cannot be alone all the time. Some days, I need conversation; I need face-to-face interaction with another human being. I need to stand on a city street and watch the chaos of life unfold all around me.
John Kooistra wrestles with the complexity of solitude in his short poem, “Solitude,” found in Artful Dodge 32/33. The poem simply details the speaker’s Sunday morning routine and describes the joy the speaker finds in being alone in his house and in nature. The final few lines, where the speaker asks if being alone is “a good or bad thing,” really stand out to me. This is a question that, to me, does not have a clear answer. Being alone can be good, but it can also be terribly isolating. I think a balance between the two is needed; at least, that is what I have discovered from my own experience.
Last summer, I worked as Artful Dodge editor-in-chief Daniel Bourne’s research assistant. I spent quite a bit of time alone, travelling back and forth from the English building on campus to the Artful Dodge office in Lilly House. I had a roommate, so I always had someone to see when I came home from work, but I still became very intimate with solitude. I began to become comfortable in my own skin. I grew accustomed to silence. I learned to enjoy the sound of my breathing and the thump of my heartbeat and the slight creak the floorboards make in Lilly House if you step on them a certain way when walking up the stairs. There is beauty to be found in solitude, and I think Kooistra captures that brilliantly in his poem, despite the persistent, nagging question, “is being alone a good or bad thing?”
—Megan Murphy, Assistant Editor