The Well of Grief, David H. Whyte


Well at William Morris Red House

The Well of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

     the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.


~David H. Whyte

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Sam Hamill, from Four Letters to Hayden Carruth


Pilate asks, “What is
love?” For which I substituted
friendship, which is love
unburdened by erotic
passion, but informed by love’s

kindliness, if not
by the inevitable
necessities of
dialectic argument.
And so I begin again—

“My dear friend,” I say,
meaning I have stood breathless
before the severe
beauty and anguish and love
and delight in your poems,

stood breathlessly still
as I listened to the turn
of a line or phrase
or flinched in recognition
of a painful truth revealed.

I do no know why
we must do it, why the line
begins somewhere in-
side the mind, its insistent
music delivering us

into another
world where the poem unfolds
from within, telling
us what’s really on our minds.
I swear it is so. I’ve sworn

allegiance before—
not to some bloody old flag
snapping in the wind,
and certainly not to that
junkyard dog, the Patriot—

but to what can be
found in poetry: friendship
and small dignities,
evidence of a long life
lived with an ear to the wind

and a heart exposed.
I swear it’s always been so.
A heart or poem
cannot be closed completely.
The heart of Heraclitus

or Euripides,
like the rhythms of Sappho,
resounds in your lines
as surely as the weather
of an age. And so I go

there in search of the
old familiar, the trusted
thing, the poem as
continuing thread binding
friend to friend across centuries.

Friendship in solace,
the root of a good marriage.
I extend my hand,
unwashed, still bloody with all
the excesses of our age.

I stand before your
poems as before a great
hearth in deep winter,
comforted by your labors.
I find sanctuary here.

We have our Pilates’
clean hands in public office.
We have messiahs
aplenty. I’m sick to death
of all those who want glory.

This is poetry.
It may change a life or burn
white hot with passion;
it may bring a smile
or be a coat for Jacob
wandering the wilderness,

but you and I know
that lust for fame is folly.
You ought to have a
Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer,
all the honors in the world.

But that is not why
you write. For which at my heart
goes out to you who
helped me learn to open it.
For which act you are my friend

forever, doing
the real work of poetry.
Fuck money. Fuck fame.
There are three worlds. In this one,
gratitude flows like honey.

The suffering world
brings about its own demise.
This world is neither
fair nor wise, but paradise
reveals itself in every line.

What, finally is love?
Willingness to face the end
without blinking? The
gift made—and given freely.
I bow to the poem, my friend.

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Darkness, Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air
~Lord Byron, Darkness

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The Lightest Touch, David H. Whyte



Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

~David H. Whyte

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Rain, Peter Everwine



Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.
~Peter Everwine
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Creative Fire, Carl Jung


Cain Fleeing Abel
William Blake, 1826


The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him  on the one hand the common human longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. The lives of artists are as a rule so highly unsatisfactory, not to say tragic, because of their inferiority on the human and personal side, and not because of a sinister dispensation.

There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of the creative fire. It is as though each of us were endowed at birth with a certain capital of energy. The strongest force in our make-up will seize and all but monopolize this energy, leaving so little over that nothing of value can come of it. In this way the creative force can drain the human impulses to such a degree that the personal ego must develop all sorts of bad qualities — ruthlessness, selfishness, and vanity (so-called “auto-eroticism”) and even every kind of vice, in order to maintain the spark of life and to keep itself from being wholly bereft.

How can we doubt that it is his art that explains the artist, and not the insufficiencies and conflicts of his personal life? These are nothing but the regrettable results of the fact that he is an artist,  that is to say, a man who from his very birth has been called to a greater task than the ordinary mortal. A special ability means a heavy expenditure of energy in a particular direction, with a consequent drain from some other side of life.

Carl Jung,  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

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The Artist as Bear, Jane Yolen

Bear, John Schoenherr

Bear, John Schoenherr


The Artist As Bear

In the softness of the year,
she follows green trails.
Stands by the rush of river
pulls silver fish into her mouth.
Summer berries spurt
between her long teeth.
Wind tickles across her back.
She meets with other bears
in warning and worry.
She growls.

In the harshness of the year
she travels in dreams,
the cave her curtain.
She feasts on her own belly,
gives birth to herself,
nurses without thought.
Dark contains her,
sustains her, keeps her safe.
as she slims down to the real,
finds meaning in her night.

Bear knows that to journey in,
she must first journey out.
An old story, but a true one.

~Jane Yolen


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