Emily Dickinson meets Mary Oliver

by Elouise

Last year a friend gave me a volume of poems by Mary Oliver. It’s safe to say I’m as mesmerized by Mary’s poetry as I am by Emily’s. Both are keen observers of nature, both external nature and human nature.

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

For the last few weeks I’ve been tantalized by a small poem of Emily’s. Cryptic as always, but not totally mysterious. Even so, I’ve wondered what to say about it. Then a few weeks ago I was reading Mary’s poems and was caught by a stanza in one of her longer poems.

First, Emily Dickinson’s poem:

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –

c. 1879

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Now the third stanza of Mary Oliver’s poem:

The deer came into the field.
I saw her peaceful face and heard the shuffle of her breath.
She was sweetened by merriment and not afraid,
but bold to say
whose field she was crossing: spoke the tap of her foot:
“It is God’s, and mine.”

But only that she was born into the poem that God made, and
called the world.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, stanza 3 from “More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree Are the Words of the Lord,” Beacon Press 2006

Mary’s words helped me think about Emily’s poem. So here’s what I’m suggesting as one way to interpret them together.

  • No mortal words of poetry will ever do justice to this world, God’s poem. Nor do we understand ourselves unless we give up all efforts to capture in our words the reality of what God created and invited us to inhabit as caretakers. We can look and point; we cannot replicate.
  • Furthermore, no poetic words of ours will ever improve upon God’s great poem. Still, as humans we’re at our best when we reflect in our lives the grandeur of  creation.
  • Surely the summer sky, the deer, and all parts of God’s creation are dignified not because of what each does, understands or even writes in flowing poetry. Rather, we owe our dignity to being part of “the poem that God made, and called the world.”

Have a wonderful Sabbath rest.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 August 2017
Image found at smartpress.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Dignify