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

Monk in the World Guest Post: Janeen R. Adil

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series. Read on for Janeen Adil’s reflection and poem about liminality. Thresholds and doorways make for evocative images; as a monk in the world, I am drawn to a

Read More »

Preparing for Advent + Prayer Cycle Day 7

Dear monks, artists, and pilgrims,  Today we share the final two audio podcasts of our 7-day prayer cycle on the theme of The Love of Thousands. The theme for morning is on ancestral earth and deep time, honoring that our ancestors are not just our human

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!