Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

Mary Oliver advises us to open up to joy and not hesitate if we suddenly and unexpectedly feel it

March 13, 2019

                    DON’T HESITATE

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

— Mary Oliver, Evidence (2009), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

The nurturing effect of rainwater in Mary Oliver’s poems Lingering In Happiness At Blackwater Pond

March 13, 2019

These two poems by Mary Oliver describe the nurturing effect of rainwater in nature deep within the body of the earth and inside her own.

LINGERING IN HAPPINESS

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear—but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

— Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early (2004), Devotions (2017)

AT BLACKWATER POND

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

— Mary Oliver, At Blackwater Pond (2006), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

Mary Oliver’s poem, The Loon, may leave you suspended, like the poet in the early morning

March 8, 2019

To get a feeling for what Mary Oliver heard and how it affected her, listen to this video, Voices: Common Loon, before reading her poem, The Loon.

                                   THE LOON

Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How

magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.

…………………………………And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.

……………………………………………….Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.

……………………………I do not close the book.

Neither, for a long while, do I read on.

 

— Mary Oliver, What Do We Know (2002), Devotions (2017)

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

RIP: Mary Oliver. Thank you for sharing your poetic gifts with us. They are a national treasure!

January 17, 2019

maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–

From White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field by Mary Oliver

Jan 17, 2019: I received news this morning that Mary Oliver had passed. I was shocked. Strange how just two days ago I had posted and sent out one of her beautiful, wise poems, Sunrise.

Later tonight I checked and the internet was flooded with the news. A friend forwarded this email from Suzanne Lawlor: RIP Mary Oliver. I am very sorry to share this sad news about Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets. This is what was sent out today:

Mary Oliver, beloved poet and bard of the natural world, died on January 17 at home in Hobe Sound, Florida. She was 83.

mary oliver photo

Poet Mary Oliver

Oliver published her first book, No Voyage, in London in 1963, at the age of twenty-eight. The author of more than 20 collections, she was cherished by readers, and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive, and the 1992 National Book Award for New and Selected Poems, Volume One. She led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Bennington College, where she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching until 2001. It was her work as an educator that encouraged her to write the guide to verse, A Poetry Handbook (1994), and she went on to publish many works of prose, including the New York Times bestselling essay collection, Upstream (2016). For her final work, Oliver created a personal lifetime collection, selecting poems from throughout her more than fifty-year career. Devotions was published by Penguin Press in 2017.

Her poetry developed in close communion with the landscapes she knew best, the rivers and creeks of her native Ohio, and, after 1964, the ponds, beech forests, and coastline of her chosen hometown, Provincetown. She spent her final years in Florida, a relocation that brought with it the appearance of mangroves. “I could not be a poet without the natural world,” she wrote. “Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” In the words of the late Lucille Clifton, “She uses the natural world to illuminate the whole world.”

In her attention to the smallest of creatures, and the most fleeting of moments, Oliver’s work reveals the human experience at its most expansive and eternal.

In her attention to the smallest of creatures, and the most fleeting of moments, Oliver’s work reveals the human experience at its most expansive and eternal. She lived poetry as a faith and her singular, clear-eyed understanding of verse’s vitality of purpose began in childhood, and continued all her life. “For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

###

In this poem, When Death Comes, Mary Oliver, who was seriously ill at the time, seemed to be contemplating her own mortality. Her perspectives on life and time were changing: “and I look upon time as no more than an idea, / and I consider eternity as another possibility,”. This reminds me what Maharishi said on the subject: “Time is a conception to measure eternity.”

I’ve posted a few of her astonishing poems: The Journey, Wild Geese, The Swan, PrayingVaranasi, The Summer Day (aka “The Grasshopper”), At the Lake, One, White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The FieldSunrise, The Loon, Blue Iris, When I Am Among The Trees, Lingering In Happiness, At Blackwater Pond, Don’t Hesitate, and When Death Comes, which was included here in her obituary posted on Jan 17, 2019.

On January 21, 2019, Here & Now‘s Robin Young talked with author Ruth Franklin about award-winning poet Mary Oliver’s legacy: Remembering The ‘Ecstatic Poet’ Mary Oliver, Who Wrote About The Natural World. Ruth wrote a profile of Oliver for The New Yorker in 2017. Robin plays an excerpt of Oliver being interviewed by Krista Tippett: On Being, Mary Oliver Listening To The World.

On October 18, 2016, Fresh Air’s Maureen Coorigan gave a wonderful book review of the poet’s New York Times essay collection: Mary Oliver Issues A Full-Throated Spiritual Autobiography In ‘Upstream’.

Today, on the day of her passing, the 92nd Street Y posted their Oct 15, 2012 recording of Mary Oliver reading from her new poetry book, A Thousand Mornings, as well as some of her other well-known poems.

On January 22, 2019, The Paris Review published an In Memoriam from Billy Collins. He wrote about a time (“one evening in October 2012”) when he and Mary Oliver shared the stage for a poetry reading “at an immense performing arts center in Bethesda, Maryland.” What he remembers “best was the book signing that followed. … I couldn’t help noticing how emotional many of Mary’s readers became in her presence. They gushed about how much her poems meant to them, how her poems had comforted them in dire times, how they had been saved by her work.” Read When Mary Oliver Signed Books. His conclusion is revealing!

Quotefancy published TOP 20 Mary Oliver Quotes from her poems.

David Whyte’s poem, The Journey, describes a leaving as a new beginning, as did Mary Oliver

January 15, 2019

Having read The Journey by Mary Oliver, I found a poem by David Whyte with the same title. Oliver’s poem is about leaving her suffocating home to live her own life, breaking away from other voices to discover her own.

Whyte said he secretly wrote The Journey for a friend who’s life had come undone to give her hope for renewal. She was going through another kind of leaving, from a long-term marriage. He describes it in the introduction to this poem, which you can hear him read below.

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

From House of Belonging by David Whyte

I’ve posted two other poems of his: David Whyte describes the mysterious way a poem starts inside you with the lightest touch and What To Remember When Waking by David Whyte.

A white owl hunting in and out of the snow helps Mary Oliver see death as spiritual transformation

January 13, 2018

snowyowl-mandel

White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings–
five feet apart–and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow–

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows–
so I thought:
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–

as soft as feathers–
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,

not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light–scalding, aortal light–
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

House of Light, 1990 © Mary Oliver

Other selected poems by Mary Oliver are posted on The Uncarved Blog.

This One by Mary Oliver shows us the beauty and fragility of the world and our place in it together

February 17, 2017

This poem, One, by Mary Oliver, published in Why I Wake Early, shows us the beauty and fragility of the world and our place in it together. See more beautiful poems by this poet posted here.

One

The mosquito is so small
it takes almost nothing to ruin it.
Each leaf, the same.
And the black ant, hurrying.
So many lives, so many fortunes!
Every morning, I walk softly and with forward glances
down to the ponds and through the pinewoods.
Mushrooms, even, have but a brief hour
before the slug creeps to the feast,
before the pine needles hustle down
under the bundles of harsh, beneficent rain.

How many, how many, how many
make up a world!
And then I think of that old idea: the singular
and the eternal.
One cup, in which everything is swirled
back to the color of the sea and sky.
Imagine it!

A shining cup, surely!
In the moment in which there is no wind
over your shoulder,
you stare down into it,
and there you are,
your own darling face, your own eyes.
And then the wind, not thinking of you, just passes by,
touching the ant, the mosquito, the leaf,
and you know what else!
How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you,
even your eyes, even your imagination.

Change begins within, and it starts with me.

January 26, 2017

It Is I Who Must Begin

It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try —
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
— to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
— as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.

Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.

~ Vaclav Havel ~

(Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, ed. by S.M. Intrator and M. Scribner)

This reminds me of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, where leaving home is necessary to “save the only life you could save” and discover what it’s meant to be. Then you can change it, begin it; for as Kukai said in his poem, Singing Image of Fire, “all things change when we do.” Change begins within, and it starts with me.

The job of a poet — someone’s gotta do it!

May 27, 2015

The job of a poet is translating what he or she is experiencing into words. If it resonates with other people’s experience, allows them to identify with what’s in the poem in a way they could not have expressed as well with words, and gives them pleasure, then it’s a good poem.

While in NYC recently, my son commented on my m.o. as a poet, how I notice things, name and say what I’m experiencing at the time. So I wrote this simple haiku for him, a sort of job description.

Experiencing
Noticing … Naming … Saying
Job of a Poet

Case in point, when I was returning from Iowa City last week, I dropped in to see Sali. She was still in her bed; they hadn’t gotten her up yet for dinner. I held her hand and spoke to her, telling her how much I loved her. A part of me was noticing how I was feeling, what was happening within and between us. From that experience, I wrote this haiku for her.

The thrill of the heart
Holding hands and loving you
The peace that follows

Some of Mary Oliver’s poems are exquisite: At the Lake, Summer Day, Varanasi, Praying, Wild Geese, and The Journey.

Here are two poems about “The Poet” one I wrote about Bill Graeser, and one Rolf Erickson wrote about me.

I also posted a brilliant poem that Bill Graeser wrote about an unusual poet: What You May Not Know About Frankenstein.

And here is a poem about the experience of listening to Poetry – The Art of the Voice.

Both haiku were written May 18, 2015, in Fairfield, Iowa © Ken Chawkin

Mary Oliver’s transcendent experience At the Lake, put into words, might leave you breathless

May 27, 2015

At the Lake

A fish leaps
like a black pin —
then — when the starlight
strikes its side —

like a silver pin.
In an instant
the fish’s spine
alters the fierce line of rising

and it curls a little —
the head, like scalloped tin,
plunges back,
and it’s gone.

This is, I think,
what holiness is:
the natural world,
where every moment is full

of the passion to keep moving.
Inside every mind
there’s a hermit’s cave
full of light,

full of snow,
full of concentration.
I’ve knelt there,
and so have you,

hanging on
to what you love,
to what is lovely.
The lake’s

shining sheets
don’t make a ripple now,
and the stars
are going off to their blue sleep,

but the words are in place —
and the fish leaps, and leaps again
from the black plush of the poem,
that breathless space.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(White Pine)

Enjoy these other lovely poems by Mary Oliver: Summer Day, Varanasi, Praying, Wild Geese, Sunrise, White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field, The Journey, One, The Loon, and When Death Comes, which was included in her obituary Jan 17, 2019.

Rolf Erickson’s Mirror Lake creates a cosmic connection for the reader.