If anyone could build such a bridge, it might be Oliver.
A few of her books have appeared on best-seller lists; she is often called the most beloved poet in America. Gwyneth Paltrow reads her, and so does Jessye Norman. Her poems are plastered all over Pinterest and Instagram, often in the form of inspirational memes.
But for her fans—among whom I, unashamedly, count myself—it offers a welcome opportunity to consider her body of work as a whole. But an equal part is that she offers her readers a spiritual release that they might not have realized they were looking for. Oliver is an ecstatic poet in the vein of her idols, who include Shelley, Keats, and Whitman.
She tends to use nature as a springboard to the sacred, which is the beating heart of her work. Indeed, a number of the poems in this collection are explicitly formed as prayers, albeit unconventional ones. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.
The Girl with the Broken Smile
She picked up the habit as a child in Maple Heights, Ohio, where she was born, in Walking the woods, with Whitman in her knapsack, was her escape from an unhappy home life: a sexually abusive father, a neglectful mother. It was in childhood as well that Oliver discovered both her belief in God and her skepticism about organized religion. But I was still probably more interested than many of the kids who did enter into the church. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself.
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Like Rumi, another of her models, Oliver seeks to combine the spiritual life with the concrete: an encounter with a deer, the kisses of a lover, even a deformed and stillborn kitten. In , the day after she graduated from high school, Oliver left home. On a whim, she decided to drive to Austerlitz, in upstate New York, to visit Steepletop, the estate of the late poet Edna St.
Vincent Millay. On a return visit to Austerlitz, in the late fifties, Oliver met the photographer Molly Malone Cook, ten years her senior. She did occasional stints of teaching elsewhere, but for the most part stayed unusually rooted to her home base. The Bay of Fundy? The Brooks Range? Early poems often depict her foraging for food, gathering mussels, clams, mushrooms, or berries.
What Mary Oliver’s Critics Don’t Understand | The New Yorker
In comparison, the human is self-conscious, cerebral, imperfect. Oliver can be an enticing celebrant of pure pleasure—in one poem she imagines herself, with a touch of eroticism, as a bear foraging for blackberries—but more often there is a moral to her poems. 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. 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.
It could mean something. It could mean everything. It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote, You must change your life.
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Is it, in fact, what Rilke meant? His poem treats an encounter with a work of art that is also, somehow, an encounter with a god—a headless figure that nonetheless seems to see him and challenge him. Ask the author first.
Published on Tuesday, December 28, Filed under: " Lyrics ". Log In or Join free to see the special features here. On Tuesday, September 26, , mywristshurt wrote: awwww Every word in it's place It's beautiful! Must be someone special It's very nicely done!