Hero's Poetry Journey, week 1
DEPARTURE: The Ordinary World
Hello, Poetry Friend
Welcome to the hero’s poetry journey. Let’s depart, shall we? Farewell, ordinary world.
The Ordinary World
The journey that confers hero-ness upon us usually begins in an ordinary way, on an ordinary day, in what we thought was an ordinary world. This first stage is more of a preface. In a movie, it might even be rendered in the opening credits.
Here we are, on a not-very-special Friday. Everything is about to change. We will look back on this moment as the Departure from all we knew. And we look around think to ourselves, Well, this sucks.
Surely every other mother is living an ordinary life. They are all normal mothers. In Saving Max, a thriller by my friend Antoinette van Heugten, she writes, “Normal mothers are oblivious to their enormous, impossible blessings.” That’s what I long for — to be oblivious to how good I have it. Instead, I get a ticket to ride.
This poem begins with what initially seems like an ordinary image of a lake isle. But the lake William Butler Yeats describes becomes, as soon as we read it, unforgettable. We can hear the honey bees. We can smell the dust in the clay cabin. We never knew that noon glows purple, but now we can't unsee this image.
I discovered this poem when a friend memorized it before her daughter had surgery, and she invited her friends to memorize it along with her, in solidarity. I took her up on the challenge.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core. — William Butler Yeats
A few years later the poem came back to me when I traveled to see my child and rode a ferry across a giant Canadian lake. We had had difficult conversations, and it was clear nothing would be ordinary again. I stood on the deck and listened to the lake water lap at the ferry. Peace came dropping slow.
Read Yeats’ poem. Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
Write about the moment when you knew you had departed from the ordinary world.
Read Yeats' poem aloud. Pick one phrase or line or stanza you can tuck "deep heart's core."
Write your own haiku about this stage of your hero’s poetry journey. (Mine is at meganwillome.com.) If you like, email me what you write.
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