#1 American Primitive (In Blackwater Woods), 1983
1. To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
#2 Poem: The Uses of Sorrow
2. Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
#3 Long Life: Essays and Other Writings
3. It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.
#4 To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
4. Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.
5. Also I wanted to be able to love and we all know how that one goes, don’t we? Slowly.
#6 Red Bird, (Sometimes § 5), 2008
6. Two or three times in my life I discovered love. Each time it seemed to solve everything. Each time it solved a great many things but not everything. Yet left me as grateful as if it had indeed, and thoroughly, solved everything.
#7 Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night
7. “Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.
Excerpt from Wikipedia: Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019) is an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times described her as “far and away, [America’s] best-selling poet”.
Sayings by Mary Oliver
#1 New and Selected Poems, Volume One (The Summer Day), 1992
1. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
#2 Red Bird (Sometimes § 4), 2008
2. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
#3 Why I Wake Early, 2004
3. Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.
#4 Wild Geese, 2004
4. You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.
#5 It was Early
5. Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
#6-7 New and Selected Poems, Volume 2 (When Death Comes), 2005
6. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
7. I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us as with a match which is lit, and bright, but does not hurt in the common way, but delightfully, as if delight were the most serious thing you ever felt.
#8 New and Selected Poems, Volume One
8. A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the trees, or the laws which pertain to them…A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.
#9 House of Light (The Ponds), 1990
9. Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled — to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.
#10 Blue Pastures (Of Power and Time), 1995
10. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.
#11 West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems (Am I Not Among the Early Risers), 1997
11. Here is an amazement –– once I was twenty years old and in every motion of my body there was a delicious ease, and in every motion of the green earth there was a hint of paradise, and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.
#12 Blue Iris (Poppies), 2004
12. But also I say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness.
#13 Evidence, 2009
13. Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
14. One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people—a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes.
15. In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.
#16 Don’t Worry, Felicity
16. Things take the time they take. Don’t
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?
#17-20 On Being: Listening to the World, Interview with Krista Tippett, 2015 [S]
17. But I do think poetry has enticements of sound that are different from literature. Literature certainly has it too, or some literature, the best literature. And it’s easier for people to remember. People are more apt to remember a poem and therefore feel they own it and can speak it to themselves as you might a prayer — than they can remember a chapter and quote it.
18. Poetry is certainly closer to singing than prose. And singing is something that we all love to do or wish we could do.
19. The world is pretty much — everything is mortal. It dies. But its parts don’t die. Its parts become something else. We know that when we bury a dog in the garden and with a rose bush on top of it. We know that there is replenishment. And that’s pretty amazing.
20. There is no nothingness — with these little atoms that run around too little for us to see. But, put together, they make something. And that to me is a miracle.
On Being: Listening to the World, Interview with Krista Tippett
#21 Starlings in Winter, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
21. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be Improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
#22 Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems
22. In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.
#23 Excerpt of A Meeting
23. Her child leaps among the flowers,
the blue of the sky falls over me
like silk, the flowers burn, and I want
to live my life all over again, to begin again,
to be utterly
#24 Lilies, House of Light, Beacon Press, 28 March 2012
24. But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green face
of the hummingbird
to touch me.
#25-27 Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way
25. Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.
26. When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.
Anything that touches.
27. For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
28. As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
29. More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing–the reason they can fly.
30. If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
#31 Don’t Hesitate
31. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world.
#32 Mystery, Yes, “Evidence: Poems”, Beacon Press, 2009
32. Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
Poems by Mary Oliver
The Journey, Dream Work, 1986
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.
How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.
The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.
The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.
How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out
Yes! No! The swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.
I Go Down to the Shore
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall —
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
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.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, Beacon Press, 13 October 2010