David Whyte (poet)

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David Whyte
Whyte in 2017
Whyte in 2017
Born (1955-11-02) 2 November 1955 (age 67)
Mirfield, Yorkshire
NationalityIrish, British, American
SpouseGayle Karen Young

David Whyte (born 2 November 1955) is an Anglo-Irish poet.[1][2][3] He has said that all of his poetry and philosophy are based on "the conversational nature of reality".[4] His book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America (1994) topped the best-seller charts in the United States.

Life and work[edit]

Whyte's mother was from Waterford, Ireland, and his father was a Yorkshireman.[5][6] He attributes his poetic interest to both the songs and the poetry[7] of his mother's Irish heritage and to the landscape of West Yorkshire. He grew up in West Yorkshire and has commented that he had "a Wordsworthian childhood", in the fields and woods and on the moors.[8][9] Whyte has a degree in marine zoology from Bangor University.[5][10]

During his twenties, Whyte worked as a naturalist and lived in the Galápagos Islands, where he experienced a near drowning on the southern shore of Hood Island.[9][11][12][13][14] He led anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas.[15]

Revelation must be
   terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
   staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
   you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

From "Revelation Must Be Terrible"[16]

Whyte moved to the United States in 1981 and began a career as a poet and speaker in 1986.[17] From 1987, he began taking his poetry and philosophy to larger audiences, including consulting and lecturing on organisational leadership models in the US and UK exploring the role of creativity in business.[13][17][18][19] He has worked with companies such as Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, The Royal Air Force and the Arthur Andersen accountancy group.[20][21]

Work and vocation, and "Conversational Leadership" are the subjects of several of Whyte's prose books, including Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as Pilgrimage of Identity, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship[9] and The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of The Soul in Corporate America which topped the business best seller lists, selling 155,000 copies.[20][21][22][23][24]

Whyte has written ten volumes of poetry and four books of prose.[25] Pilgrim is based on the human need to travel, "From here to there."[26] The House of Belonging looks at the same human need for home.[27] He describes his collection Everything Is Waiting For You (2003) as arising from the grief at the loss of his mother.[28] Pilgrim was published in May 2012.[5] His latest book is Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words,[29] an attempt to 'rehabilitate' many everyday words we often use only in pejorative or unimaginative ways.[30] He has also written for newspapers, including The Huffington Post[31][32] and The Observer.[33] He leads group poetry and walking journeys regularly in Ireland, England and Italy.[9]

Whyte has an honorary degree from Neumann College, Pennsylvania, and from Royal Roads University, British Columbia, and is Associate Fellow of both Templeton College, Oxford, and the Saïd Business School, Oxford.[5][10]

Whyte has spent a portion of every year for the last twenty five years in County Clare, Ireland. Over the years and over a number of volumes of poetry he has built a cycle of poems that evoke many of the ancient pilgrimage sites of The Burren mountains of North Clare and of Connemara. [34][35]

Whyte runs the "Many Rivers" organisation and "Invitas: The Institute for Conversational Leadership", which he founded in 2014.[15][36][37] He has lived in Seattle and on Whidbey Island and currently lives in the US Pacific North West; he holds US, British and Irish citizenship.[38][6][23] He is married to Gayle Karen Young, former Chief Talent and Culture Officer[39] of the Wikimedia Foundation. He has a son, Brendan, from his first marriage to Autumn Preble and a daughter, Charlotte, from his second marriage to Leslie Cotter.[40] Whyte has practised Zen and was a regular rock climber.[9] He was a close friend of the Irish poet John O'Donohue.[41]


Poetry collections[edit]

  • "David Whyte: Still Possible" Langley, Washington : Many Rivers Press, 2022, ISBN 9781932887556
  • David Whyte : Essentials Langley, Washington : Many Rivers Press, 2018. ISBN 9781932887501,
  • The Bell and the Blackbird Langley, Washington : Many Rivers Press, 2018. ISBN 9781932887471, OCLC 1032674032
  • The Sea in You Langley, Washington : Many Rivers Press, 2016. ISBN 9781932887389, OCLC 932084907
  • Pilgrim Langley, WA : Many Rivers Press, 2012. ISBN 9781932887259, OCLC 810123963
  • River Flow: New & Selected Poems Revised Edition Langley, WA : Many Rivers Press, 2012. ISBN 9781932887273, OCLC 812068424
  • River Flow: New & Selected Poems Langley, Wash. : Many Rivers Press, 2007. ISBN 9781932887174, OCLC 77908400
  • Everything is Waiting for You (Many Rivers Press, 2003)
  • The House of Belonging (Many Rivers Press, 1996)
  • Fire in the Earth (Many Rivers Press, 1992)
  • Where Many Rivers Meet (Many Rivers Press, 1990)
  • Songs for Coming Home (Many Rivers Press, 1984)



  • Pilgrim
  • Sometimes
  • Return
  • What to remember when waking
  • Echoes in the well
  • Sweet darkness
  • Clear mind wild heart
  • Midlife and the great unknown
  • Thresholds
  • The poetry of self compassion
  • Life at the frontier
  • A change for the better
  • The teacher's vocation
  • Make a friend of the unknown
  • The opening of eyes
  • Faithful to all things
  • The power and place of poetry
  • Footsteps: A writing life
  • Solace: The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question"


  1. ^ Whyte, David (October 2012). River Flow. Langley: Many Rivers. Back Cover. ISBN 978-193288727-3.
  2. ^ Whyte, David (2012). River Flow (2nd ed.). Many Rivers. pp. 265–266. ISBN 978-1-932887-28-0.
  3. ^ Whyte, David (2012). River Flow (2nd ed.). Langley: Many Rivers. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-932887-28-0.
  4. ^ Whyte, David. "Life at the Frontier: The Conversational Naure of Reality". Ted Talk. Ted Talk. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Profile Archived 23 December 2012 at archive.today at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  6. ^ a b "Exposing business to the power of poetry" The Irish Times 24 May 2005
  7. ^ Whyte, David (2007). River Flow (1st ed.). Langley: Many Rivers. ISBN 978-193288727-3.
  8. ^ David, Whyte. "Asilomar Talk 2012". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  9. ^ a b c d e The Denver Post "David Whyte's nonprosaic world" 26 May 2009
  10. ^ a b American Library of Congress profile and audio file Archived 30 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Whyte, David (2001). Crossing the Unknown Sea (1st ed.). Riverhead. ISBN 9781573221788.
  12. ^ Stanford University profile
  13. ^ a b A Blessing in Disguise: 39 Life Lessons from Today's Greatest Teachers (2008) Andrea Joy Cohen and Thich Nhat Hanh, Penguin, p285 ISBN 9780425219669
  14. ^ "The Uncanny Dream That Saved Me from Disaster" O Magazine. March 2001
  15. ^ a b David Whyte official website, Many Rivers
  16. ^ "Revelation must be terrible" Archived 30 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine by David Whyte
  17. ^ a b Harvard Business Review May 2007
  18. ^ PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) profile
  19. ^ "O for a muse of office fire" The Observer 21 January 2001
  20. ^ a b The Independent "Business types everywhere would benefit by listening to a chap with a Ted Hughes accent and a David Lodge haircut declaiming poetry " 1 July 1995 .
  21. ^ a b Business Week "Companies Hit The Road Less Traveled" 4 June 1995
  22. ^ Many Rivers Interview
  23. ^ a b Penguin publishing profile
  24. ^ "A Poet Taps Into the Disillusionment of Managers" The New York Times 20 June 2001
  25. ^ Whyte, David (6 December 2019). David Whyte: Essentials (1st ed.). Langley. pp. Frontispiece. ISBN 978-1-932887-50-1.
  26. ^ Whyte, David (2012). Pilgrim: Poems by David Whyte (1st ed.). Langley: Many Rivers Press.
  27. ^ Whyte, David (1997). The House of Belonging. Langley: Many Rivers. ISBN 9780962152436.
  28. ^ Sounds True Interview April 2010 Sounds True interview transcript
  29. ^ Whyte, David (January 2015). Consolations: The Solace, nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (1st ed.). Langley: Many Rivers Press.
  30. ^ Whyte, David. "Web bio and Irish Tours". davidwhyte.com.
  31. ^ "The Poetic Narrative Of Our Times" 3 December 2009 HuffPost
  32. ^ "The Questions that Have No Right to Go Away" 18 June 2012 HuffPost
  33. ^ "Ideas for modern living: regret" Observer, by David Whyte 25 July 2010
  34. ^ Whyte, David. "Mythopoetic Tour of the West of Ireland". live.davidwhyte.com.
  35. ^ Whyte, David (2012). River Flow (2nd ed.). pp. 265–288. ISBN 978-193288727-3.
  36. ^ "Invitas". invitas.net.
  37. ^ Institute of Conversational Leadership
  38. ^ "Who is an Irish citizen by birth?". Citizen's Information.
  39. ^ "Gayle Karen Young: Supporting Wikimedia's dynamic culture – Wikimedia Blog". blog.wikimedia.org. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  40. ^ "Time to make your life work", The Irish Times 18 May 2004
  41. ^ BBC obituary of John O'Donohue

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]