David Whyte: Poet
David Whyte: "People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand."
I was introduced to DAVID WHYTE's poetry over a decade ago. Many of the poems touched me deeply and had an impact on my life. This page is to share his life's work.
DAVID WHYTE is an adventurous poet. He has a degree in marine zoology, has worked as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands, led natural history and anthropological expeditions in Chile, Bolivia,and Peru, and has traveled to India and Nepal.
Whyte is also a lecturer and corporate consultant. He uses poetry in corporate settings to help others deal with change, and to encourage creativity in individual employees.
Poem: The Opening of Eyes
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
~ David Whyte ~
Poem: Self Portrait
It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
~ David Whyte, from Fire In the Earth
New and Selected Poems
RIVER FLOW contains over one hundred poems selected from five previously published works, together with twenty-three new poems, including a tribute to an Ethiopian woman navigating her first escalator, a meditation of love and benediction for his young daughter, and a cycle of Irish poems that convey his deep love of the land and life-long appreciation for its wisdom. (amazon)
David Whyte grew up in Yorkshire, England
Our work is to make ourselves visible in the world. This is the soul's individual journey, and the soul would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else's.
~ D. Whyte ~
Links for David Whyte
- David Whyte Calendar
A lot of information here, including his calendar of events, books, his poems.
- The Institute of Conversational Leadership
It is a means for both leaders and practitioners to take the essential spirit of David Whyte's thought and philosophy into their organizations and their individual lives, to extend the artistry and originality of his work.
- The Poetic Narrative of Our Time by David Whyte
It may be that we live in a time of collective heartbreak, where for the first time in history we are being asked to witness the disappearance and reappearance on a global scale of what it means to be fully human; to give away our identity and see ho
- David Whyte DVD
This is a page at Thinking Allowed where you can purchase a Whyte DVD called Preserving the Soul.
- Men's Issues: Poetry and Personal Passion by David Whyte
Comprehensive men's issues site: men spirit and soul; mythopoetyc, etc. Here you'll find a written compilation of a couple interviews with David Whyte.
- Interview with David Whyte & Lee Rossi
D.W: I see myself as being an English poet, an Irish poet, and a Northwestern poet. Perhaps even more interestingly, IÂ´m not sure I would ever call myself an American poet, I think the first two disqualify me. But certainly there is a body of my wor
- Audio: Work
Recordings for sale of talks, by D. Whyte, in organizational settings.
- David Whyte's Nonprosaic World
Article by Colleen Smith. If David Whyte were a poem, he'd be an epic. If he were a superhero - and to many readers and listeners, he is - his extraordinary power would be storytelling . . . .
- A Larger Language for Business
A Conversation between D.W. & Lisa Burrell. Harvard Business review. Poetry is a way of getting at the phenomenology of conversation-that is, what happens along the way when you're trying to have a real meeting with something other than yourself
- TED: David Whyte
Video, 20 minutes
Poem: What To Remember When Waking
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, movable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
~ David Whyte ~
TED: David Whyte
He studied marine zoology in Wales
Poem: The Lightest Touch
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
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.
~ David Whyte ~
from Everything is Waiting for You
Current home is in the Pacific Northwest, USA
Poem: Loaves and Fishes
This is not the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.
Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.
This is the time
People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
~ David Whyte ~ from The House of Belonging
Excerpt: Interview with David Whyte
Interviewer: Tami Simon
taken from David Whyte: Being At the Frontier of Your Identity
Tami Simon [interviewer]: So we need to go a little bit more into this idea of the "conversation" because I want to make sure I really understand what you mean. At first, you were talking about reality having a conversational nature and that makes sense to me in terms of "I have these ideas that I want and then I get feedback from all kinds of people about what's actually going to happen here." And it keeps going back and forth. But now you are talking about an "inner conversation" and some "central conversation" and I'm not quite tracking. I could have a ton of conversations with myself. I mean, there are a gajillions of me in here! What conversations are useful and not useful and how I do I know if I am in this fierce, central conversation?
David Whyte: Well I'd say that the diagnostics of that fierce, central conversation is that everything starts to make sense in your life. For instance, to use a practical example, if you're a writer or you've got some form of artistic discipline, and you say, "Well, I'll get to it when I've done my work during the day, when I come home." Or, "I'll get to it when I've done this project work and I've got a little bit of space. I'll get to it when I have enough money in the bank, or when I've retired." Or even, "I'll do all my chores in the morning and when that's done, I'll get to it in the afternoon," if you say these things to yourself, you're living a life of contingency and it's very difficult in the afternoon to actually change your identity. You can do it but you're lucky if you can. You have to change your identity back to this initial, original conversational focus.
If you tend to the things that are most important to you first, you don't actually need to spend much time. You can spend even just twenty minutes or half an hour, an hour as you get further into it, perhaps a couple of hours. The rest of the day, and all the other chores, including getting the curtains cleaned and cleaning out the refrigerator and getting the car to the garage to be worked on--all of those things actually can take on a kind of delight instead of something that is standing in the way of your real life.
One of the things that we have to learn in life is "What is my core conversation?" Of course, that is one of the great pedagogical questions when you're growing up through your teens and into your twenties and thirties. It is finding out, "What is my conversational frontier?" And the only way that you find it out is often by making a lot of mistakes and getting into relationships that aren't good for you, getting into work that's not good for you, or doing the work in a way that's not good for you.
But eventually, if you're sincere, you start to get closer and closer to what is real in your life. But you're also, while you're doing that, gaining self-knowledge. This is what delineates what you could say is the "serious practitioner or artist, the serious conversationalist" from those who are constantly, throughout their life, on the periphery and never able to step into the core. That core is where parts of you start to shrive away, to disappear, shaved away, and you get this sense of a nucleus.
This kernel or nucleus - this creative crucible - is not something that exists just by itself. So when you're talking about this creative conversational core, it's something that's working with all of the phenomenology of life around you. It's constantly looking, hearing, seeing, and creating this identity - this "frontier identity" where you're partaking of both at the same time so what you think is you and what you think is not you."
I returned to poetry as a more
precise way to describe the world --- more precise than science.
~ D. Whyte ~
Poem: The Journey
Crossing The Unknown Sea (excerpt)
. . . D. W.'s thoughts about keeping integrity
Somehow, whatever CREATIVE POWERS we have in our work are intimately CONNECTED TO OUR ABILITY TO REMEMBER WHO WE ARE amidst the traumas and losses of existence. All of our great literary traditions emphasize again and again the CENTRAL IMPORTANCE of this dynamic: that there are tremendous forces at work upon us, trying to make us like everyone else, and therefore WE MUST REMEMBER SOMETHING INTENSELY PERSONAL ABOUT THE WAY WE WERE MADE for this world in order to keep our integrity.
Be infinitessimal under that sky, a creature
even the sailing hawk misses, a wraith
among the rocks where the mist parts slowly.
Recall the way mere mortals are overwhelmed
by circumstance, how great reputations
dssolve with infirmity and how you,
in particular, live a hairsbreadth from losing
everyone you hold dear.
Then, look back down the path as if seeing
your past and then south over the hazy blue
coast as if present to a wide future.
Remember the way you are all possibilities
you can see and how you live best
as an appreciator of horizons,
whether you reach them or not.
Admit that once you have got up
from your chair and opened the door,
once you have walked out into the clean air
toward that edge and taken the path up high
beyond the ordinary, you have become
the privileged and the pilgrim,
the one who will tell the story
and the one, coming back
from the mountain,
who helped to make it.
~ David Whyte ~ from River Flow
Poem: The Well of Grief
THE WELL OF GRIEF
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward 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.
~ Davie Whyte, from Many Rivers Meet
Feedback is always welcome . . .