In early 2016, as I was putting the finishing touches on a collection of blog posts and essays that I would publish as A More Daring Life, I knew that I would begin the book with the poem, A Course in Creative Writing by William Stafford.
Accompanied by Mary Oliver and David Whyte, Stafford is the third leg of the poetry stool on which I have most often rested and restored myself upon my entry into personhood some years ago.
Where David Whyte beckons us to a new conversational and imaginative frontier and Mary Oliver invites us to walk with her in the everyday presence of the natural world, Stafford pulls us into the here and now with the unvarnished language of his Western sensibility.
I come back to this poem when I feel myself too eager for clear instruction about what’s next. I come back to it when I feel myself searching for the road that is already paved and marked and brightly lit, instead of the one that is here, just beneath my feet.
A Course in Creative Writing
They want a wilderness with a map—
but how about errors that give a new start?—
or leaves that are edging into the light?—
or the many places a road can’t find?
Maybe there’s a land where you have to sing
to explain anything: you blow a little whistle
just right and the next tree you meet is itself.
(And many a tree is not there yet.)
Things come toward you when you walk.
You go along singing a song that says
where you are going becomes its own
because you start. You blow a little whistle—
And a world begins under the map.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.