Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

The Poet’s Obligation

The Poet’s Obligation

To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house or office, factory or woman
or street or mine or harsh prison cell:
to him I come, and, without speaking or looking,
I arrive and open the door of his prison,
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a great fragment of thunder sets in motion
the rumble of the planet and the foam,
the raucous rivers of the ocean flood,
the star vibrates swiftly in its corona,
and the sea is beating, dying and continuing.

So, drawn on by my destiny,
I ceaselessly must listen to and keep
the sea’s lamenting in my awareness,
I must feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn’s castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave,
I may move, passing through windows,
and hearing me, eyes will glance upward
saying, “How can I reach the sea?”
And I shall broadcast, saying nothing,
the starry echoes of the wave,
a breaking up of foam and of quicksand,
a rustling of salt withdrawing,
the grey cry of sea-birds on the coast.

So, through me, freedom and the sea
will make their answer to the shuttered heart.

-Pablo Neruda, On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea


*~* Visit this week’s Poetry Party! *~*

You might also enjoy

New Monk in the World Self-Study Retreat!

We are pleased to announce the release of our revised and expanded Monk in the World retreat! The retreat is an 8 week self-study that explores the principles of The Monk Manifesto. The new version includes: Registration is offered on a sliding scale and all

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Naimi Gonzalez

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Naimi Gonzalez’s reflection learning to be present through lectio divina. I am in the beginning stages of learning to be more contemplative

Read More »

3 Responses

  1. You are welcome Tara, it is indeed a treasure!

    Richard, I love this Levertov poem, hadn’t read it before. Thanks for sharing so many gifts of poems with me, they are true delight and comfort.

  2. Here’s an english rendition by Denise Levertov of an Aztec piece:


    The artist: disciple, abundant, multiple, restless.
    The true artist: capable, practicing, skillful;
    maintains dialogue with his heart, meets things with his mind.
    The true artist: draws out all from his heart,
    works with delight, makes things with calm, with sagacity,
    works like a true Toltec, composes his objects, works dexterously,
    arranges materials, adorns them, makes them adjust.

    The carrion artist: works at random, sneers at the people,
    makes things opaque, brushes across the surface of the face of things,
    works without care, defrauds people, is a thief.

  3. This is possibly one of my favourite Neruda poems. I read it semi-regularly. Thanks for the reminder!