Gimbling in the Wabe – “The Journey” by Mary Oliver

by Sharon Browning

For the final Gimbling in the Wabe of this year’s National Poetry Month, I am highlighting a poet who, to me, epitomizes the music that swells inside of us, that is both deeply personal and yet encompasses the omniscience of the beauty and solace of the natural world: Mary Oliver.

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her poetry, Ms. Oliver is one of America’s most popular poets; like many others, what draws me to her poetry is her relationship with nature and how it finds expression in her words.

While it was hard to select just one poem of hers to share with you (indeed, her poem The summer day contains one of my favorite poetic phrases of all time: Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?), I settled on The Journey, a work that resonates with me every time I read it.

I hope it does for you, as well.

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
he only life you could save.

Thank you for exploring National Poetry Month with me in April’s Gimbling in the Wabes. I encourage you to foray out on your own, even if poetry “isn’t for you” (which is something I used to believe, before I realized that I simply wasn’t reading the “right” poetry for me). And thank you to all the poets out there, for sharing your talents with all of us.

~ Sharon Browning

Related Posts