Born September 10, 1935, Mary Oliver has become one of the most popular poets of our times. She has been recognized for her art as a poet, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Award, as well as other esteemed recognition. She has also won over the hearts of poetry lovers, for she speaks to us of the simple, daily lives we live and share in common. Her use of the natural world as a metaphor for who we are and how we live, is strikingly beautiful and touching.
The first poem I read of hers remains one of my favorite, Wild Geese:
“You do not have to be good,
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes.
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue sky,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Another poem, Song of the Builders, is included in Mary Oliver’s book, Why I Wake Early, published in 2004.
“On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God-
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving
the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.”
And finally, simple lessons for life in the simple words of poet, Mary Oliver:
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”