Mary Oliver (1935-2019): Bestselling Poet, Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
The main theme the late Oliver shares is her abiding love and deep regard for the natural world. It is the fabric she prefers to lay her words on and wrap them up in and where she always found not only peace, but understanding of the importance of taking time to truly smell, touch and honor the earth.
Though she has penned hundreds of poems, here are a few that I found especially notable.
She also wrote many nature-themed essays but gave very few interviews feeling that her work could speak for itself.
She was a New York Times bestselling poet with a wise and generous wisdom and an intimate respect for the world not of our making.
Here are a few examples of her work.
Mornings At Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
From Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
The feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Three Things To Remember
As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.
Sometimes there are no rules.
For many, poetry has to rhyme, for others it has to adhere to a particular structure or have a certain word count and the variety of forms have accumulated over time.
For Mary Oliver it had to express her observations of the natural world and perhaps she said it best, “When you write a poem, you write it for anybody and everybody.”
- MORE has many of her collections
- Poetry tells a story
- What’s your poem?