December Poem: Throw Yourself Like Seed

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.

–Miguel de Unamuno

(c) material used for educational purposes

Journal Prompts

  • 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.


4 Responses to December Poem: Throw Yourself Like Seed

  1. Christine Robert December 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

    I, too, was greatly saddened by the news regarding Garrison Keillor and the cancellation of Writers Almanac. It has been a part of my morning for years.

    The poem you have shared is perfect for these times. I look forward to the meditation and writing.

    Thank you Kay

    • Kay Adams December 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

      So glad you’re with us, Christine, and that the poem spoke to you. It’s been a powerful “mentor poem” for me.

  2. Carol Roberts April 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm #

    In April of 2018 I am just now reading this, and I remember that President Obama said something very similar talking of some of his early failures. It helps me to hear this because I feel so small before a whole population that doesn’t know about the value of expressive writing. Thankfully, I now do have one enthusiastic class of a dozen or so women (the one man dropped out) and another smaller one but with some grateful participants, too. As you say, if I focus on the work and not on myself, it does help.

    • Kay Adams April 8, 2018 at 10:05 am #

      Ah, Carol, a late discovery of a poem is a special gift that has been waiting to be unwrapped — so glad you came across it! Thank you for the reminder of President Obama’s echo of this concept. Sometimes we feel like we’re infinitisimal (I’m just noticing that this word for tiny derives from infinite) but the impact of our work on an individual life can be immense. As Mother Teresa said — “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Any time any one of us offers the power and healing of expressive writing, or a poem, to anyone who is informed or awakened by that work, we add a ripple to the waters. Keep doing your good work.

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