Journeys: Travelling within

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  Emerson

The idea of life as a journey is a well worn theme in poetry and it’s the focus of our show this week.  And what’s the message?  What great wisdom can we expect from our featured poets? Well, I guess it’s that life is a trip we have to take, no matter how bad the roads or the accommodation! In his poem The Journey, journeys 2American poet James Wright finds the secret to living in this world, in a quiet moment of reflection while visiting the medieval village of Anghiari.  Accepting life for what it is, its experiences and burdens but not being weighed down by them is the message he imparts to us.  ‘Step lightly all the way through your ruins’ he says.  We have a tendency to over-criticize and pick holes in every little thing we do, hold on to negativity and not let go of the baggage of the past, but Wright urges us to walk free from all of that and just be.  Be here now.

Life is is a voyage of discovery, of ourselves and others and we have nothing to fear on this journey only what we’ve conceived in our minds before we set out.  We spend so much time worrying about what might happen in the future that we’re sometimes blind to the magic that is happening around us.  Greek poet C P Cavafy prepares us for a great adventure to Ithaka, metaphorical destination and home of the legendary Greek king Odysseus.  I think Ithaka is about enjoying the pleasure of being alive – the people we meet, places we visit and knowledge we gain along the way.  Dreams and goals are important but I think the real value is gained through the process of living.

In Journey To The Interior, Margaret Atwood compares the rough Canadian landscape to the inner journey of self-discovery. Something not to be undertaken lightly as ‘only few have returned safely’ she warns.  I can completely relate.  Sometimes these inner journeys can be tough to navigate, there’s a fear of going too deep, of making discoveries you wish you hadn’t, but the reverse is also true and can lead to some self-illuminating moments.  Sometimes I find I just need the distraction away from myself though and take a journey out of my own psyche and into someone else’s … that can be illuminating too!

Mary Olivers’ recognition of the inner voice, the true authentic self is the subject of one of her best known poems The Journey, where she tells us to go out into the ‘wild night’ and find the voice that will ‘keep us company’ as we go deeper and deeper into the world. For most of us, the decisions we make are based on externals like what other people think.  We think it’s better to fit in, but you know what fitting in is?  Fitting in is resisting yourself … and resisting yourself can only lead to a life full of uncertainty, self-doubt and self-reproach.  Being honest with ourselves is risky business but big risks yield big rewards.  So take a friendly attitude towards your thoughts.  Be bold enough to live your truth, turn up the volume on your inner wisdom and in the words of (I think) Allen Ginsberg “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness”.

Audre Lorde and Philip Levine also feature on todays show, along with music from Mick Flannery, Tom Petty and Bjork.

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I’m thinking about Greece today and their rejection of the terms of an international bailout.  As one young Greek woman said on the news this evening “we are a free people; poor, but free”. Greek banks are running out of money so a deal with 8297948879_c0932dbb4e_mthe Eurozone has to be struck fast. Moreover, prime minister Alexis Tsipras has to try, somehow, to unite a divided country, as many Greeks are deeply unhappy at what has happened.  Anyway, I stumbled across this interesting Cavafy poem, written around 1928, the poem is placed at the decline of the Hellenistic period, before the Roman-Seleucid war 192-188 BC but with uncanny parallels to what’s been happening between Europe and the Greeks in recent months.  Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1863, Cavafy’s poems exhibit a skilled and versatile craftsmanship, drawing on themes from personal experience, along with a deep and wide knowledge of history. Since his death in 1933, Cavafy’s reputation has grown and he is now considered one of the finest European and modern Greek poets.

Personally, I’m behind them 100% –  Καλή τύχη Greece! This is:

In A Large Greek Colony, 200 B.C.

By C P Cavafy (trans. by Edmund Keely & Philip Sherrard)

That things in the Colony aren’t what they should be

no one can doubt any longer,

and though in spite of everything we do move forward,

maybe – as more than a few believe – the time has come

to bring in a Political Reformer.

But here’s the problem, here’s the rub:

they make a tremendous fuss

about everything, these Reformers.

(What a relief it would be

if they were never needed.)  they probe everywhere,

question the smallest detail,

and right away think up radical changes

that demand immediate execution.

also, they have a liking for sacrifice:

Get rid of that property;

your owning it is risky:

properties like those are what ruin colonies.

Get rid of that income,

and the other connected with it,

and this third, as a natural consequence:

they are substantial, but it can’t be helped –

the responsibility they create is damaging.

And as they proceed with their investigation,

they find an endless number of useless things to eliminate –

things that are, however, difficult to get rid of.

And when, all being well, they finish the job,

every detail now diagnosed and sliced away,

and they retire (also taking the wages due to them),

it’s a wonder anything’s left at all

after such surgical efficiency.

Maybe the moment hasn’t arrived yet.

Let’s not be too hasty: haste is a dangerous thing.

Untimely measures bring repentance.

Certainly, and unhappily, many things in the Colony are


But is there anything human without some fault?

And after all, you see, we do move forward.

Haris Alexiou is a favourite of mine, used to listen to her all the time when I lived in Greece in the 1990’s. Great memories 🙂