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by David Whyte
Riverhead Books, 2002
Review by Margo McPhillips on Feb 12th 2003

Crossing the Unknown Sea

“It does not take much to spark the imagination, but just what will do it is always the question, and the answers can be very queer indeed.  Georgia O’Keeffe wrote home: ‘I got half-a-dozen paintings from that shattered plate.’  Someone else may simply have gotten a cleaning job.”

Cameron, J. (2002) Walking in This World New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam

Crossing the Unknown Sea is written by the genuine, work-a-day poet, David Whyte; working as such in the Fortune 500 corporate world.  In this book he shows and tells how to use one’s work life to experience and express one’s real Self and how that Self can transforms one’s work life.

I greatly enjoyed this book because Whyte practices what he preaches and it shines forth in his story examples.  His examples are personal, coming from his own life and struggle to grow and become himself, and it did not surprise me when I learned that that Self was a poet at heart.  “Poet” is what makes his life story examples so attractive and instructional. Though I feel Whyte was “meant” to write this book (I don’t believe an academic or blue collar worker could have), it is a book written for anyone and everyone, no matter what their “calling.”

This is the crux of Whyte’s thesis; one should follow one’s calling and work as one is guided by one’s desires and aptitudes.  Choosing or working at a job or career one is not suited to by nature is a mistake but one many people make.  Whyte shows why and how to get back in touch with one’s nature and get back on track and why it is so important for people to do so.

This is not a how-to book.  There are no lists or instructions to follow.  It is a book for the heart and only the heart can read it.  As such, parts will be difficult reading for some. Fortunately though, the author has spent some time in the corporate world as a purely corporate type, putting aside the poet in him and being an administrator.  He tells this story too and how he got back to writing poetry and what the costs and benefits were of doing so.  Now he works in the corporate world, using his poetry self to help those who have left behind their creative, inner selves to regain them.

I would recommend this book to anyone bored with their worklife or with themselves; the book helps those stuck, either way.


© 2003 Margo McPhillips

Margo McPhillips is a 1972 graduate of the University of Maryland with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. She is currently interested in the use of books on the Web, bibliotherapy, genealogy as an online family/generational activity, and is enrolled in the UserActive program to earn a Certificate of Professional Development in Web Programming from the University of Illinois to help her with her seven Web sites. Visit her new UserActive site

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