David Whyte

30” x 25” india ink and collage on D’Arch paper
one of a kind

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.

Detail of Well Grief
 

David and I first met on one of his tours to Yorkshire. He admired Claire’s poems. He called her a first line poet. He admired the Written Image, and after Claire's death, wrote out The Well of Grief. When I say I’ve been with him, went to hear him, or admire his work, most people look quizzical, and make the remark, “I don’t understand modern poetry.” Another variation is, “Poets today are too obscure.” I recently proposed to the two men who have sponsored past films, one at PBS and other at Channel 4 in London, that I go on a canoe trip with David Whyte…..that the conversation would be worthwhile, make an interesting film. We sat together at a London cafe. They didn’t  know David. They asked who he was. When I said, a poet, they spoke simultaneously, almost in alarm: “A Poet?” 
I felt small. They said, “Look, Rob, if you want to take Michelle Obama, or a Kardashian, we’d be interested.” 

We don’t live in a contemplative age. We don't live in an age of poetry, as we once did. Much contemporary poetry attempts to abandon metaphor and beautiful language….for what? An earlier 20th century poet, William Carlos Williams, in his late poem Asphodel, explained why poetry matters this way: 

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

 

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