Thursday, January 03, 2019

"I learn by going where I have to go."

It's time to shake off 2018 (and 2017 ... and 2016 ... umm, let's face it, it hasn't been the best run here for a couple of years now) and regenerate, much as a Time Lord does every now and then. Things change; they should, they must.

I put the internet on a much-needed snooze for the last couple of months, but I'm back. Taking my waking slow, but I'm here. And I'm hopeful about 2019.

Shall we kick the new year off with a Pulitzer Prize winner? Yes, let's. Can anyone nail a villanelle quite like Roethke? I think not. This is one of my favorites.

The Waking
by Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

(Read the rest here, at

And let's compare favorite lines, shall we? (I know, I know ... an impossible task. Let's try anyway.)

I learn by going where I have to go.

I'm gonna have to go with this one. As a matter of fact, I might adopt this as the quote for my year. The quote for my life.

I learn by going where I have to go.

I don't always want to go where I have to go. ("Can't I go somewhere else, please?" I often ask or whine.) But I learn by going, I go by learning, and I have to, I have to, I have to, no matter how much I want to go somewhere else. (This shaking keeps me steady. I should know ... Oh, Roethke, stop throwing competing lines my way. I can choose only one.)

Anyway, yes, it's been a difficult couple of years. (What falls away is always. And is near ... Oh, c'mon, stop it, Roethke, I'm choosing only one favorite line!) But I sense that I'll learn by going, as I have to go, into 2019. And the shimmering hope that is a new, uncharted, unlived twelve-months-to-come is whispering to me that sometime in the coming year, I will "I hear my being dance from ear to ear." (Oh, that's a great line, too. But no, I'm not changing my answer.)

I learn by going where I have to go. 

I'm looking forward to finding out where I have to go this year.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Poetry for Children. 


Ruth said...

This one's a keeper - how have I never seen it before? Thanks! I have a feeling we'd have a lot to talk about over a cup of tea. Hope this is a better year in every way!

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, Ruth, I would LOVE to talk with you over a cup of tea! Goals! :)

Irene Latham said...

Welcome back, Karen! I am loving your close reading of this poem and your faithfulness to that line. Thinking of you learning, going and going, learning. xo

Tabatha said...

I'll go with "This shaking keeps me steady."
Thought you might like to hear it sung:
Wishing you a happy 2019!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

So much wisdom. Welcome back. xx

Tamara said...

Karen, I've missed you! I have never read this poem before so thank you for the introduction. I love the whole poem but I will claim this line as my favorite: I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

Karen Edmisten said...

Irene, thank you! :) xo

Tabatha, that's so cool! I had missed that when you first posted it. Thank you for that. I love your choice of line, too. :)

Thanks, Amy! It's good to be back. :)

Tamara, I've missed you, too! Msg me sometime soon! I love the line you chose. Every line is a treasure in this poem.

penelope said...

Lovely poem and oh!, it is so good to see you. Offering prayers and empathy from across the net of ether ... it hasn't been the best of years on our little hill, either ... Pray and love and trust in the Lord, right?? {{hugs}}

tanita✿davis said...

Ah, lovely. That's one of the first poems I turn to when I'm trying to WRITE a villanelle. Here's to learning by going in on whatever project we have, and getting there.

Linda B said...

Lovely to see you back, Karen. Wishing you a wonderful year "And, lovely, learn by going where to go." Nature teaches us how to live all the time.

Karen Edmisten said...

Hi, Penelope! Good to see you, too, and yes, pray, and love, and trust!

Tanita, indeed there's no better model for a villanelle. I'll drink to your toast -- clink!

Linda, thank you and it's lovely to see you, too! Love your line choice. Yes.

Jone MacCulloch said...

Hi Karen. I love this poem and would agree that is a great line.

Karen Edmisten said...

Jone, happy to share it with you!

Kiesha Shepard said...

"I feel my fate in what I cannot fear." I'll have to ponder this line a bit more. I'm glad you are back in the PF loop again, Karen!

Mary Lee said...

I almost chose this one for today! Great minds!

Karen Edmisten said...

Kiesha, lots to ponder, and thanks!

Mary Lee, great minds indeed! :)

Kay said...

Oh it is hard to choose just one favorite line, but like you, the repeated line Learn by going where I have to go calls to me. This year will have me going in all kinds of new directions where I have much to learn (so did last year, come to think of it).

Jean James said...

What a beautiful villanelle. Hard to choose just one line indeed.

Michelle Kogan said...

I can't go with just one line but would go with yours and
"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."

So powerful and rhythmical, thanks Karen!

Kortney Garrison said...

This post and poem have been haunting me since you posted it. The poems that you can't shake, they're the best! Peace keep you in this new year, Karen!

Karen Edmisten said...

Kay, all good wishes for all your new directions this year!
Jean, it is a thing of beauty, isn't it?
Michele, my pleasure! I love the first line as well.
Kortney, I agree and may peace keep you this year, too!