Poetry Monday: The Journey by Mary Oliver

“The Journey” by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver (1935 – ) is the stunning first poem in Roger Housden’s anthology ten poems to change your life.  If you are anywhere close to making a change in your life, this poem will slap you awake.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –

As Housden observes in his remarks, “Any authentic movement usually requires a break with the past. . . .   Other people will feel the ripples, and they won’t like it.”  Nevertheless we must embark on our future when we feel its call. Plutarch said that, “before the departure of a ship in stormy weather, the captain would pronounce that, ‘to sail is necessary, to live is not.'”

It was already late
enough, and a wild night
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

It’s not easy to change course, but when the realization comes that it’s necessary, time often feels short.  I like the imagery of a stormy night when the air crackles with energy and danger.

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.

Making a profound course correction does feel like saving your life.  I’ve done it.  It’s scary, but not doing it is even scarier.


Filed under Life, poetry

2 responses to “Poetry Monday: The Journey by Mary Oliver

  1. Always have liked this one … keep thinking I need to look up the rest of her poetry, too!

    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 …

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