What to Remember...

Looking at the poetry of David Whyte.

David Whyte is an internationally acclaimed poet known for his words about words. For Whyte, poetry is life. Poetry is the words written by life itself if it would hold a pen. And it does in the hands of David Whyte. 

I don’t know how I came about Whyte’s work, but I have been hooked ever since. I’ve read his poems, watched and listened to his lectures, and always came away re-energized about life and poetry. 

For Christmas of last year, I asked for one of his books, Essentials. A wonderful book filled with Whyte’s best poetry and some prose. I often pick up this book to read and re-read the words. What I like the most is the author’s commentary on his poems. They are insightful and add to the poetry giving context and purpose, but not too much that the mystery is lost.

What to Remember when Waking

In that first

hardly noticed


in which you wake,

coming back

to this life

from the other

more secret,


and frighteningly



where everything


there is a small


into the day

that closes

the moment

you begin

your plans.

What you can plan

is too small

for you to live.

What you can live


will make plans

enough for the vitality

hidden in your sleep.

To become 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 waiting desk?

Above is my favorite poem in Essentials. It is a call to awaken to your true self - beyond what you could plan. To awaken into what you can imagine. The line, “What you can plan is too small for you to live.” Is a planned life desirable? Does not one shrink back from fatalism? Then why do we plan out our days and leave no room for mystery or the unknown?

David Whyte is giving us permission to live our days unplanned, yet full of imagination. “What shape waits in the seed of you… In the life you can imagine for yourself?”

You’re worthy of this purposeful life that you are gifted. “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are no accident…” You and I, the earth and sea, all that you can see, are created for each to live in and delight together. 

The open page is our invitation, not to plan our day, or to control the world, but a means to write your story within the world you inhabit. 

Have you heard of David Whyte before? What have you read of his?