Many ardent poetry fans worship Mary Oliver and her work. My arrival to her poems came much later than I desired, but when I read her various collections, her reflections offered a place to rest my head and seek a solace that seem absent in my life. After reading her poems, the swirl of her ideas, emotions and sentiments took over and led to reflecting in a way that did not appear attainable through a novel or short story. Her truths, singular and universal, make the hollowness of the world more bearable. Poetry often does that. It pushes you to undiscovered directions, an unrolling of a red carpet of emotions that transcend a moment. Here is one of my favorite poems by her:
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 air,
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.
If you choose to explore Oliver’s poetry, I recommend Wild Geese: Selected Poems, as well as her numerous poetry collections that are listed here.
*This post is in honor of National Poetry Month, where I discuss a specific poet or poem that resonates with me. I started the series with Rediscovering Poetry, my return voyage to the poetic world.
Do you have a favorite Mary Oliver poem or line to share?
Image: “A piece of peace” by ArTeTeTrA via Flickr.
One of my favorites!
Wild Geese is one of my favorites as well.
One of the best by an extraordinary poet. Thank you, thank you. xox
Oh, I love this. And this is beautiful: “Her truths, singular and universal, make the hollowness of the world more bearable.”
Is Wild Geese included in any of her other collections?
Wild Geese is anthologized in many collections, Sarah. It first appeared in Dream Work. If you pick up any of her collections, you will find many gems. xo
Oh yes, I love that poem. And there’s this beautiful one too:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Thank you, Sara. Each time I reread a different Mary Oliver poem, I learn a valuable lesson.
A favorite poem. And I don’t know a lot about poetry but I know what I love. That.
I love your take on poetry, Tamara. It is embracing what speaks to you.