poetry fix – ‘To Know the Dark’ by Wendell Berry

Hello, readers. This blog has been a no-show for a while but all that is about to change. It is now going to be solely focused on writing and I have started a new blog that is about anxiety and mental health. It’s called Scaredy Cat and you can find it at www.scaredycat.home.blog. Head on over and follow if it appeals to you.

It’ll be a slow process moving my mental health content over to Scaredy Cat and transforming this blog into writing-only. I hope you can stick with me and find one or both of my sites an interesting read.

As well as flex my own writing muscles, I want this site to celebrate good writing created by others. My first weekly feature will be ‘Poem of the Week’ and today we’re starting with a short but weighty poem by Wendell Berry. His latest anthology was gifted to me at Christmas. It is called, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ and I thoroughly recommend it to all but especially if you’re a city-dweller. Words have the power to transport you elsewhere, as I’m sure you know. When the peace of actual wild things eludes you, put some noise-cancelling headphones on and jump into a reality-retreat and read one or two of these poems.

Without further ado…

Handwritten by me, you can find it on p.37 in the anthology as a 4-line poem

This poem utilises great word economy yet provokes reflection more than any other poem I’ve read for a while. In that sense it reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s In This Short Life That Lasts Only An Hour.

It challenges me to not shy away from the darkness in the world, which can represent so many different things. We can be inclined to shine a light on everything. Like a child who is afraid to go upstairs by themselves and so hurriedly runs to every light switch.

Avoiding darkness can involve sweeping painful feelings under the carpet. Or turning away from injustice and the suffering of others. There is much to be learned from the realities that scare or repel us. Even beauty to be explored as we learn and change through our exposure to and interaction with darkness in its myriad forms.

In a very literal sense, we know that the natural world harbours a variety of creatures that consider darkness their friend. To never venture into the dark is to miss the twit-twoo of an owl, the sparkling night sky, the ominous yet poetic wolf’s howl.

In a metaphorical sense, I know that denying my own feelings of grief or struggle has led to more struggle rather than freedom. It can feel like you’re doing your lost loved one an injustice to not linger in the darkness of your pain. The process of sitting with the darkness, having a cry, and then getting on with the day helps you move through the process in a healthy way.

What does this poem make you reflect on? Any favourites you want to share?

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