Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mary Oliver's Spirit

In Oliver's book, Thirst, there are 43 new poems. You'd expect to find poems about nature and spirituality. In this volume, she also explores grief and faith.

Some of the poems sound like prayers-

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 can speak.

Patching a few words together into a prayer, or into a poem is, as she writes early in the book, her doing her life's work - "loving the world."

As she spends a "Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond," Oliver writes:

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective

These poems are a kind of natural praying. They are natural in the sense of nature, full of wonder and awe for the beauty of what surrounds us, and they are natural in their inherent sense of right and wrong and their higher qualities of human nature.

Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned—
if not enough else—
to live with my eyes open.
I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness—
as now and again
some rare person has suggested—
is a miracle.
As surely it is.

I am going to try to write a natural prayer like Oliver's.

online poems by Mary Oliver here


  1. i LOVE "thirst." my very favorite of hers i think. i gave a copy to my mother for her birthday. she is also in love with it.

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mary Oliver. 'Wild Geese' is the one poem I have memorized. Another favorite is 'The Journey.' -
    "One day you finally knew
    what you had to do,
    and began..."

  3. Ditto re: Mary Oliver and "The Journey"

    I have a recording of poet David Whyte reading that masterpiece, along with his commentary on Oliver. Maybe I can figure out a way to copy that for you :)


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