Monday, February 25, 2008

Annotation - Clear Mind Wild Heart

David Whyte is an English poet who currently resides in British Columbia. In addition to writing poetry, he works as a corporate consultant and uses his poetic insight in the field of organizational development. This six-disc audio series uses poetry, and the unfolding power of the imagination, to illustrate the larger principles of life, and lead into a discussion about the possibilities that exist when we get outside of our closed and limited experience.

The first thing I noticed and enjoyed about this series is simply the way Whyte reads poetry. He inhabits it, and makes it his own. Whether reading from Rilke or Yeats, Butler or Shelly, he’s not afraid to play with a poem, to repeat lines and whole stanzas as many times as necessary to wring the truth from them. I particularly enjoyed his reading of Rilke’s “The Man Watching.” He took the last stanza:
“Winning does not tempt that man
this is how he grows: By being defeated,
by constantly greater beings.”

It’s an amazing poem, and the way he reads it, repeating the whole stanza twice, then repeating each line, “Winning does not tempt that man. Winning. Does not tempt that man. This is how he grows, this, this is how he grows…”

Whyte covers topics like silence, grief, nature, vocation… the whole of human experience. He uses poetry to pull back the veil from a lot of what we experience, and invite us into a fuller engagement with the world in which we live. As a naturalist he spends a lot of time on the idea of “presence” and connection to the “numinous” through nature. He reads some of his own poetry, but mostly uses the words of others to demonstrate the deeper level of experience we can aspire to.

Honestly there’s so much in this series that I enjoy… I don’t quite know how to write about it. The best I can say is that it’s inspiring… to dream, to take life seriously, to write better, to read more… I used to write a lot of poetry, years ago and before I started writing songs. I think somewhere along the way the form and constraint of songwriting choked some of the poetry out of me. But this series has made me want to start again. I have a couple of Whyte’s other works – another CD series, a book of poems titled The House of Belonging, and a non-fiction book I’m excited to read titled The Heart Aroused: Poetry and The Preservation of the Soul In Corporate America. It’s good stuff, and it’s already informing my own creativity.

Whyte, David. Clear Mind Wild Heart: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry. Louisville, Sounds True Inc. 2002.

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