Last week my community of poetry therapy trainers was shocked and saddened at the revelation that our beloved Writers Almanac by Garrison Keillor was no more because of the founder’s sexual improprieties. We gathered online to lament the loss of an outstanding poetic resource and voice.
I noted my own sense of “outrage fatigue” and my shift into putting my focus on the one good I know I can reliably do in the world, my work. Suddenly this poem came to me–a poem I found in about 1994, possibly on Writer’s Almanac, when I was in a similar state of fatigue, after a failed third book and compounding losses.
I was mesmerized by this poem; over and over I read it and said it aloud. I drew from it the true knowledge that I am one small scared and grieving person, but the Work is large. Turning to the Work is the only way I know to get out of the swamp of disillusionment and despair. This poem comes to me when I need to remember the determination and strength that arises in me as soon as I “turn to the work.”
Throw Yourself Like Seed
Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.
(c) material used for educational purposes
- Start a write with “Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit.”
- What is “the work” that sustains you? What does it mean to you to “turn to the work”?
- What might it look like to “throw yourself like seed”? What might grow if you did so?
- Write about a time when you were able to “gather yourself” by throwing yourself into your work.