June 1, 1997
And the speck of my heart, in my shed of flesh and bone, began to sing out, the way the sun would sing if the sun could sing, if light had a mouth and a tongue, if the sky had a throat, if god wasn't just an idea but shoulders and a spine, gathered from everywhere, even the most distant planets, blazing up. Where am I? Even the rough words come back to me now, quick as thistles. Who made your tyrant's body, your thirst, your delving, your gladness? Oh tiger, oh bone-breaker, oh tree on fire!
August 30, 1992
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox; when death comes, like an iceberg between shoulder blades, I want to step through the door of curiosity, wondering; what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
February 22, 1987 |
In the opening poem of "Dream Work," Mary Oliver writes of small fish escaping a "hopeless future": "And probably,/if they don't waste time/looking for an easier world,/they can do it." This sets the tone for a book of poetry that takes on the least-easy world and succeeds in affirming it: the labor of a human being to understand both the wonder and the pain of nature.
January 6, 2008 |
USED to be, if you telephoned the poet Mary Oliver, her partner Molly Cook would invariably answer. She'd ask you to hold on a moment, feign footsteps and return to the phone as Oliver, making no pretense at a different voice (editors across the country routinely played along). Cook was, for many years, Oliver's agent. Oliver, everyone understood, was a bit of a recluse. She needed nature and solitude to create her poems. "Writers must . . .
September 5, 1999 |
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain. I dip my cupped hands. I drink a long time. It tastes like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold into my body, waking the bones. I hear them deep inside me, whispering oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened? From "New and Selected Poems" by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press: 256 pp., $20)
October 29, 1995 |
BLUE PASTURES by Mary Oliver. (Harcourt Brace & Company: $21, 122 pp.) "If I have a meeting with you at three o'clock," writes Mary Oliver in a chapter on the flow of work, the work life of the writer, "rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all." "The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work . . . and gave to it nether power nor time." Oliver has, grace a dieu, given hers both.