August 14, 2007

My Favorite Poem

I posted this on my blog back in August 2006 when I was so new at it I hardly had any readers. This poem inspires me as an artist, and also as a person who desires to be more authentic.

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

15 comments:

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

I remember reading that poem with friends while sitting around a fire in a home in Inverness, California. It's one of my favorites.

Thanks, SML. I needed that today.

Robert said...

The poem that probably inspired me to begin writing poetry was this one:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


It was in the back jacket of a book my parents compiled after my brother's death. Twenty years later it still stirs my soul to read it.

Regina Filangi said...

I really like that poem! Thanks for sharing.

Robert said...

I also like the song "Hymn of Promise", which ironically was written in the same year my brother died:


In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.


It really has a beautiful tune, and she wrote it just before her own husband died. It's one of the only bright spots from that year I've ever found in my life. ;)

CV Rick said...

excellent poem.

I'd never read it before.

Jer said...

It's hard to understand the sentiment of the poem some days.

You want to try and be something for everyone, to save everyone, but ultimately you have to listen and take care of yourself.

You can only support others, you can't live their lives for them.

Cele said...

Most excellent sentiments. Both yours and the poem Robert offered are inspiring. Poems like these inspire me to write, and yet I feel as though I lack because others captured my intent so well in their words.

Sideon said...

Powerful poem. I have goosebumps and I'm shivering in delight.

What an amazing affirmation and inspiration!

Reminds me of "Silence" by Delerium (I'll forward you the mp3):

"Give me release.
Witness me."

Paul said...

Mary Oliver is timeless. Thanks for posting that poem. It's excellent.

Lianne said...

These are all such beautiful words.. truth pared down to just the very core.

Thank you all for sharing them.

Dan said...

Very nice!

Thank you for posting it again!

Dan

Sister Mary Lisa said...

JMT ~ That sounds like tons of fun, reading that poem and discussing around a fire.

Robert ~ Thanks for sharing the beautiful poem and song. I especially like the first one.

RF ~ you're always welcome! Glad to see you back on a computer.

CVRick ~ I'm glad I could introduce you to new stuff. That's rare!

Jer ~ you're right.

Cele ~ keep writing your poetry. Only you can bring feeling into your own words and that will show.

Sid ~ I look forward to that MP3. Thanks.

Paul ~ I've never read any other Mary Oliver works. I should look that up and buy the book if she has one.

Lianne ~ truth is timeless, huh?

Dan ~ thanks! Glad you like.

Success Warrior said...

That's a very good poem. Good timing for me. Thanks.

JulieAnn Henneman said...

One of my favorites...you have inspired me. I think I'll share one of my favs.

:0)

hm-uk said...

Lovely poem SML, I can see how it inspires you and I am happy to know that you do what you do because it is a passion and a love. If you have a few hours to kill on the internet, Poetry Archive is a brilliant site.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/home.do