Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: The world as God’s poem

The world as God’s poem

Several years ago I posted “Emily Dickinson meets Mary Oliver.” A phrase from one of Mary Oliver’s poems had captured my imagination. As she puts it, we owe our dignity to being part of “the poem that God made, and called the world.”

With so much ‘undignified’ death flooding our news media, it’s difficult to hold onto Mary Oliver’s image. I don’t easily hear or see “the poem that God made, and called the world.” It’s easier to picture what’s happening today as a rising tide of undignified and wrongful deaths that should never have happened. Which may also be true.

Here’s my response, first posted in August 2017, and reposted below in light of today’s current events.

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, they and we owe our dignity to being part of
“the poem that God made, and called the world.”*

*Quotation from Mary Oliver’s poem,
“More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree
Are the Words of the Lord.” Published in Thirst, p. 31

~~~

Praying we’ll become open to seeing each human life and each creature great or small as part of God’s poem. Which, of course, includes each of us with all our flaws and our gifts.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 February 2022
Photo found at smartpress.com

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

Emily Dickinson meets Mary Oliver

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 

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

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Dignify

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