Why Mary Oliver’s words matter
A few years ago a friend introduced me to Mary Oliver via one of her books of poetry, Thirst. Spare on words and extravagantly beautiful, her forty-three poems grabbed my heart and my imagination. The collection focuses on her grief after the death of her longtime partner, and her struggle to find words that capture the reality of her faith.
Mary Oliver challenges me in ways similar to Emily Dickinson, with one exception. Oliver’s poetry, also heavy with meaning, is remarkably and painfully direct. In each poem she invites me to enlarge the way I see, experience and respond to what seems everyday and ordinary.
Since her death on January 17, scores of visitors have visited this site looking for posts about Mary Oliver. At the top of the list: It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, a poem about prayer.
In the last week I’ve read and listened to multiple tributes to Mary Oliver. Her poetry is stunning; her challenge to us as human beings is direct and piercing: Wake up, Observe, Report. Not simply about nature, but about this world and its creatures as part of God’s great poem. A reality we ignore to our great loss.
Here’s one of Mary Oliver’s shorter poems. I love the way it makes simple what isn’t always easy.
Musical Notation: 2
Everything is His.
The door, the door jamb.
The wood stacked near the door.
The leaves blown upon the path
that leads to the door.
The trees that are dropping their leaves
the wind that is tripping them this way and that way,
the clouds that are high above them,
the stars that are sleeping now beyond the clouds
and, simply said, all the rest.
When I open the door I am so sure so sure
all this will be there, and it is.
I look around.
I fill my arms with the firewood.
I turn and enter His house, and close His door.
Mary Oliver, from poems in Thirst, p. 38; published by Beacon Press (2006)
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 January 2019
Love this post…and also love Mary O!
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Eloise, I don’t know Mary Oliver or her poetry, so appreciate the introduction. The lines, “When I open the door i am so sure do sure all this will be there and it is” express to me the faithfulness of God in God’s creation even when I am uncertain and feel the passing fluidity of life for one person or community in earth.
Elouise, are you interested in a visitor (me) to listen to the universe with you, or are you conserving your strength?
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Hi, Mary. Thanks for your beautiful comment. My answer to your questions is yes! I love seeing Omar from time to time, and would love an opportunity to spend some time with you as well. Email me, and let’s see what might work.