On why poetry could save me

There are moments in life, rare ones, when you feel utterly connected with the inanimate. You cannot believe that something that can’t move, is as still as that pen that refuses to write your words for you, has moved you. I had one of these moments last night. I didn’t go looking for it but this journey that I am on led me to it. Sort of like when you turn a blind corner and a lush garden in bloom with all your favourite flowers meets your unfocussed eyes to make you suddenly aware that you had been walking with a purpose. The air becomes still and the moment is etched in your mind with a smile that surprised even you. Then come the tears almost instantaneously, tugged by the engine of this thing that is not moving but is slowly gaining momentum. How are you not transported then to another realm of consciousness? How are you to resist the implication of these connections? It is all inevitable. It happens because the black on white speaks of all the grey in you and what is dead in terms of life is more alive than all the real you see.

Thank you Mary Oliver for a poem that may just have saved me,

The Journey

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
recognised 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 you could save.

Copyright @ 1986 by Mary Oliver. First published in Dream Work, Atlantic Monthly Press. Reprinted in New and Selected Poems, Volume One, Beacon Press.


32 thoughts on “On why poetry could save me”

  1. Your words and this poem connects me to a thought that I oh so very often battle. If you are who you think you are what would you be doing right now? And why aren’t you. Is your journey filled with constant positives, negatives, and treys? Mine sure is. Thanks for this post maybe another journey just began.


  2. Oliver’s statement of the high stakes of poetry (and, by extension, of all art) – stakes that can be life or death – makes a point that can be difficult to grasp for those who aren’t themselves writers or creators (or especially ardent fans). But it’s a point that needs to be made, repeatedly. I’m reminded of the work of Dionne Brand, former poet laureate of Toronto, which likewise stresses these stakes. She once memorably called poetry “a perfect kind of speech” (capable, even, of facilitating revolution). Take, for just one example, this poem from thirsty (2002):
    “…why, the touch of everything blushes me,
    pigeons and wrecked boys,
    half dead hours, blind musicians,
    inconclusive women in bruised dresses
    even the habitual gray-suited men with terrible
    briefcases, …”
    for the full poem see http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/brand/poem1.htm
    Thanks very much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely poem Sam… Your writing is very heartfelt and nice to read. It stirs feelings that sometimes are drowned by our mundane everyday lives. While reading your blog, i was remembering a comment I made on another blog about why lots of us blog. Would like to share a part of it here 🙂

    “I guess most of us blog because there is a part of us that we cannot either share with those whom we meet daily, or they do not appreciate it enough, or they are not like us 😀

    So it is simpler to get online, meet wonderful friends and have online ‘relationships’ related to things we love, writing, photography, music…. we find our soul-mates in cyberspace.
    Although this does not diminish our day to day relationships, it adds a great flavour to our lives, like vanilla ice-cream topped with chocolate sauce & nuts :D”

    Looking to read lots more from you… Happy Friday… Hugs…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Santosh. That’s an insightful comment. I do blog for these reasons among others.
      I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying my posts. This blog is a labour of love and I suppose it shows. 🙂
      I am very happy to have you on board this journey I am on. We are all on it together. Happy weekend to you. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “It happens because the black on white speaks of all the grey in you and what is dead in terms of life is more alive than all the real you see.” – such beautiful poetry in prose. Loved this line! And thanks for sharing that beautifully evocative poem by Mary Oliver.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your post and Mary Oliver’s poem too! The lines you wrote so poetically I found in particular were, “that pen that refuses to write your words for you…” – too bad eh? 😉 – and “…I didn’t go looking for it but this journey that I am on led me to it.” So if your writing is poetic, I can see why poetry could save you Sam! 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I happen to be the kind of person that can’t express herself with speech but find solace in words written down, and that’s what I practically do whenever I need to clear my head, that connection my dear is the reason I walk about light hearted… Thanks for this post Sam, poetry is truly a life saver…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am ok with speaking but I end up speaking only about superficial things and I speak a lot so people don’t realise that there could be anything going on under the surface. So I write now and as my header says, here “I speak to be free and I speak freely”. Like you I am here for the connection 🙂 Thank you for reading, liking and commenting and importantly keep writing your wonderful poems!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Sam, I’m like your no.1 fan, no jokes. Keep doing your free writing, I wish I could do same but I have a lot of restrictions because of my background, well, I hope to evolve soon 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 🙂 That means a lot hon. I appreciate it. I felt many restrictions too and still do but to create is to challenge everything. I am learning so much since I started writing. I am inspired by you!

        Liked by 1 person

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