Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

Summer flowers:

Summer bouquet

And Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours:

Just a day or two after I finished reading this unseasonal book, my favorite person in the world brought home the citrus-colored bouquet “just because,” and I felt so very lucky to have two opposite seasons collide so beautifully in my world.

Oliver’s collection of prose, prose poems, and poems is worth reading, if only for the final and title essay, which is wide-ranging in subject and profound. In it the poet says:

Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology but attitude….

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves–we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.

Breathtaking, as is most of the rest of the collection. I will admit, however, that I skipped one entire essay. “Swoon” was ostensibly all about spiders, and when I got to the part that detailed a spider slowly devouring a cricket, I started flipping pages. I was trying to eat my lunch after all. This reveals, I suppose, the difference between the poet who has the patience and honesty to witness the reality of nature… and me. There are some things I’d rather not know.

But Mary Oliver is braver than most. And wise. Unblinking. Willing to see. Really see. Embracing. This is why we need her. And why her winter writing can stun and illuminate even in the summer hours.

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If I were a poet, I would go to Block Island this spring just to hear Mary Oliver. I really would.

Protective of the privacy necessary to her creative process, Oliver rarely gives readings, but she will be participating in the April 3 – May 4, 2008, Block Island Poetry Project. Also in the spring, Beacon Press will publish a collection of new Oliver poems. I may not be going to Block Island, but you know I’ll be reading Red Bird.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver

I first fell in love with Oliver’s poetry when I read “Wild Geese” with its stunning opening lines:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

Read the full poem here.

The clarity, fragility, and internal music of Oliver’s lines took my breath away. I own most of her collections now, and hers are the poems to which I return for soul-nourishment and centering. Her earlier poems worked around a fiery wound toward the reconciliation offered in poems like “Wild Geese.” I think that early fire has burned down now into a rare and quiet peace raised in her more recent work. I’m interested to see what Oliver does in Red Bird.

To learn more about my favorite poet, visit the following pages:

Poetry Foundation Bio

Academy of American Poets Bio

L.A. Times review of Oliver’s most recent work, Our World (photographs by Oliver’s late partner, Molly Malone Cook; text by Mary Oliver)

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Magnolia and autumn leaves

Three white birch

Mary Oliver’s poem, “A Dream of Trees,” which begins:

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments…

Read the full poem here.

(I’ll be back, Blissful readers. I have a few more days of holiday left. I’m playing, reflecting, cooking favorite foods, resting, and wishing all of you a wonderful 2008.)

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A Japanese maple leaf floating in water:
Japanese maple leaf

A puddle of gold leaves from the white birch:
Birch leaves

A pile of clean, smooth stones:

New hydrangea leaves unfurling to the rain:

Jewels of rain on scarlet leaves:
scarlet leaves

When it rains, I often think of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Last Night the Rain Spoke to me.” You may have read it before, but here it is again for “the long and wondrous journeys still to be ours.”

More photos on flickr

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