Still Possible
by David Whyte
19 Poems ~ 9 Narratives ~ 11 B/W Illustrations ~ 156 Pages
Format: 4 ¼’’ x 7’’ ~ Perfect Bound
Publisher: Many Rivers Press
ISBN: 978-1-932887-55-6
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

Still Possible, by David Whyte, is a treasure hidden in a field, that upon discovery, brings joy. It is well-aged wine, the kind one lingers over enjoying by small sips. Whyte is gifted with the ability to combine poetry and philosophy in a way that opens the windows of fresh air to what is “still possible” in life. In his book Nothing Personal, (1964), James Baldwin, (1924-1987) wrote, “One discovers the light in darkness, that is what darkness is for; but everything in our lives depends on how we bear the light. It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is light.”

This pocket-sized volume invites readers to embark upon a journey toward light. It is a journey of self-discovery. The poet is both companion and guide. His approach is subtle and respectful. You get the sense that Whyte is drawing from his own experiences offering them as cool water if one “chooses” to drink from his cup.

Arrangement and Style

The book contains four divisions: Beginning, Invisible, The Well, and Narratives. They flow easily, like a stream, one into the other in graceful interaction. 15 brief commentaries accentuate several poems. These provide background and context. Since Whyte’s life and poetry are informed by places such as Yorkshire, Wales and Ireland, I found the commentaries fascinating and helpful. In addition, 11 black and white pictures are placed throughout. All of the images, in one way or another, suggest a gentle movement from darkness to light. They inspired your reviewer to pause. When I did, I was rewarded with valuable life-insights. By the way, I learned very quickly that Still Possible is a slow read. Why gulp down a good glass of wine?

The Poems

David Whyte writes a short line. Poems have a pleasing appeal on the page with lines ranging in length from 1 to 5 words. I found this technique helpful in two ways: 1) My eye tracked easily through each poem without getting tired. 2) Whyte’s content is intellectually deep and spiritually provocative. These poems speak, really speak within the depths of mind and heart. Their presentation on the page is purposeful to that end.


Whyte begins the journey toward what is still possible with the poem, “For the Road to Santiago,” reproduced here in full:

For the road to Santiago,
don’t make new declarations
about what to bring
and what to leave behind.

Bring what you have.

You were always going
that way anyway,
you were always
going there all along.

I found the words “Bring what you have” representative of Whyte’s themes of light and hope. The line, situated between two quatrains that emphasize “beginning” and “movement” reminded me of a Bible story learned in my youth. In the story a large crowd is hungry. Feeding them is an impossible task. However, a little boy “brings what he has,” a few loaves and fishes. This meager offering is multiplied, showing that the seemingly “impossible” is “still possible,” when we bring what we have.

By the way, the term “Santiago” appears in another poem, “Beyond Santiago.” This term is pregnant with meaning. How Whyte uses it is impactful and worthy of a teachable “pause.”

Moving into “Invisible,” we must not miss the presence of two worlds which live within. One world is palpable to the touch. The other, no less real, is alive within one’s inner essence. We bring what we have to each world. These helpful poems take a deep dive into the spiritual resources essential to healthy living. There is not a trace of condescension or over-stated piety as the poet leads the reader toward self-examination. I found this excerpt from “Admit,” to be particularly compelling:

your distant love affair
is with yourself,
and that

no one
can play
harder to get:

the unwritten letters,
the plays for time,
the heartbreak
over never being
properly answered.

As the poem developed its theme, I felt as if a curtain had been pulled back. A pearl of self-understanding, something like “truth,” had been placed in my hand.

An iconic ad for a major financial institution asks the question, “What’s in your Wallet.” Whyte’s next section asks, “What’s in your well?” The six poems comprising “The Well,” probe evermore deeply into a merger between the visible and invisible. What is an earthly well if not a source of cool refreshment? What is one’s inner well if not a source spiritual refreshment? This excerpt from Whyte’s poem “The Well” reached my heart:

[You] had come in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memories you held
and the realization that in this silence
you no longer had to keep
your eyes and ears averted
from the place that could save you,
and that you had the strength
at last to let go of that thirsty,
unhappy, dust-laden
pilgrim-self that brought you here.

As a writer, I don’t usually get emotionally involved with the books I review. This book has been an exception. Since the journey toward light, toward renewal and hope, is a journey shared by one and all … I can’t think of a better consort for your unique journey (and my own) than David Whyte’s Still Possible.


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