Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Today I was introduced to the excellent inspirational poem, The Journey by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author, Mary Oliver who has published over 25 volumes of poetry and prose. She was born in 1935 in Ohio and studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College. For several years she lived at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Her book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She traveled widely, giving readings and workshops at various colleges and universities and teaching, and for five years held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College, VT. She currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Her poem for me is about the struggles we face along our journey of self-discovery. It speaks of letting go of things that have constrained us, and moving forward, and this may mean changing such things as relationships or careers. It may mean feeling for the first time and allowing what we have known about ourselves all along to blossom and grow. And in doing so, we reach a much deserved sense of freedom.

It can also be about those who have freed themselves from abuse, but whatever the situation one may have in life, it would be like stepping out of the box, which often may have been confining, suffocating, restrictive, and then delighting in the new found freedom and joy.

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
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
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver
Dream Work
© Copyright 1986 by Mary Oliver

I like her phrase, '“Mend my life," each voice cried.' It reminds me of how often, especially as women, we have been in the position of taking care of everyone else’s life, often at the expense of our own. We might come in last, if we even come in at all. Maybe no inner voice calls out for us, “mend my life.” It is up to the individual to discover his or her voice and in that new found voice say, I have mended my life. I am who I am!

Isn’t the time for self-discovery now? What are you waiting for?



Oklahoma Girl said...

This is WONDERFUL!! The poem really spoke to me, too. I have been on this road toward me for many years. The voices have quieted, even though they sometimes try to return. I am gonna post this on my mirror to read every morning. Just to remind me that my Journey is righteous.

blessed be...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I love that poem, and I desperately needed the reminder to be who I am, and to be who I am becoming. Blessings. :)

Randy said...

Thank you for posting this poem. It is wonderful. I actually understand it, which isn't a common experience for me with poems.

be well

Mark said...

Thank-you for sharing such moving words. Yes, there is a shift in the air, this is the time to shift and to focus on our self.

Anonymous said...

Oh how lovely to have found your blog! I adore Mary Oliver - and have the book Dream Work and this poem is so powerful - especially the last few lines. You might like one of my posts, about her poem Wild Geese, which is one of my favourites.


Linda Pendleton said...

Oklahoma Girl, I'm glad the poem spoke to you, too. Thanks for your comments.

Linda Pendleton said...

Glad you enjoyed the poem. We all need reminders now and then. :-)

Linda Pendleton said...


I like it too, because I could understand it and you are so right about some poetry not being too understandable.

Mark, thank you for your comments. I truly believe a shift of change is, and has been, occuring for all of us.

Stoneweaver, thanks for joining my blog. I don't believe I had ever come across her poetry before. Thanks for the link to your posting of her poem. Very nice.