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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Peddling Poetry



I’m going to plagiarize myself again (shhhhhhhhh!). I wrote this some time ago (for that same, defunct literary blog) to sing the praises of the poet Mary Oliver. Those of you who have followed my ramblings over time have encountered a few of her poems sprinkled here and there. I thought it worthwhile to focus on her work a bit more. She is a marvelous poet. I daresay, even those not usually fond of poetry may find her words enchanting.

Catholic nuns impressed upon me, at a very early age, that it was a desecration (bordering on mortal sin) to dog-ear the pages of a book. In my innocent youth I strove to respect every book I touched. Miscreant that I am, however, I eventually succumbed to dog-earing the pages of poetry books. I wanted to find my favorite poems as quickly as possible. Hence…despite chronic guilt…I filled my shelves with tomes of poems, ragged but glorious in their defilement.

And so it was when I picked up Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems – Volume One. Each page ended bent and frayed. Dog-eared page after dog-eared page, I found myself transported to a profoundly beautiful world of owls, hummingbirds, swamps, forests, daisies, sunflowers, ravens, deer and herons. Mary Oliver renders the ordinary extraordinary and finds deeper truths in the living world surrounding us. I found her poems so captivating that I realized, about halfway through her book, that I had dog-eared every page. There was simply no need to mark all the pages. Each poem was a joy, a gift, a revelation. Yes, she is THAT good. She truly deserves her Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award. This book is, without a doubt, my favorite poetry collection of all time (sorry Pablo and May…).

For those of you who have yet to experience the wisdom and innate goodness of Mary Oliver, here are a few morsels:

“…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…”

“…for it’s true, isn’t it,
in our world,
that the petals pooled with nectar, and the polished thorns
are a single thing –
that even the purest light, lacking the robe of darkness,
would be without expression –
that love itself, without its pain, would be
no more than a shruggable comfort…”

“…where the hummingbird comes
like a small green angel, to soak
his dark tongue in happiness –“

“When I woke
the morning light was just slipping
in front of the stars,
and I was covered
with blossoms…”

“Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.”

“In every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator.
In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting
to come out of its cloud and lift its wings.”

“…you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal:
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

“Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,
Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.”

“Because we lived our several lives
Caught up within the spells of love,
Because we always had to run
Through the enormous yards of day
To do all that we hoped to do,
We did not hear, beneath our lives,
The old walls falling out of true,
Foundations shifting in the dark.”

“…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 that you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

* * *

10 Comments:

Blogger flutter said...

This made me sigh. Just lovely

Wed Aug 22, 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah, Ms. Flutter, if you savored these tiny morsels, then I urge you to pick up her collection of poems and...feast!

Wed Aug 22, 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gillette said...

Oh my. It's a meeeeracle..I think I understood this!!!!??!!!!

Pretty, pretty, Jonas. Thanks.

Wed Aug 22, 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

My goodness! I do believe we are witness to a poetic breakthrough, of sorts! Yes, Mary Oliver can touch most anyone. Her poems are honey on the tongue and music to the ears. She understands both Nature and the human heart...(is there a significant difference?).

I'm glad you enjoyed her words, Ms. Gillette. Trust me, there's lots more of that "pretty" within easy reach.

Wed Aug 22, 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Sally-Sal said...

“…you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal:
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

Beautiful. I strive for that every single day :o)

Thank you for another stunning post, Jonas

Thu Aug 23, 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

"…and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own"

That was so amazing, had to read it a couple of times over.

Thanks.

Thu Aug 23, 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Oh, this old poem pusher is quite pleased with himself this morning!

I'm delighted you've found these snippets appealing and/or inspiring.

Thank you so much for the compliment, Sal!

Jenn-

The quote came from this poem (a long-time personal favorite):

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
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
was terrible.
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.

Thu Aug 23, 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger deb said...

thank you for the bits of poems, just enough to whet my appetite. She wrote one called Wild Geese that I love, I think I first saw it one your site.

Fri Aug 24, 07:37:00 AM  
Anonymous ebwrite said...

You know I'm an Oliver fan my man!

Share her with everyone you meet (and even those you don't).

Fri Aug 31, 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I will be eternally grateful to you, Buddha, for introducing me to Mary Oliver.

Sun Sep 02, 11:05:00 AM  

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