Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Thousand Mornings: Poems

In A Thousand Mornings (2012), acclaimed poet Mary Oliver once again transports us to the beauty that surrounds her coastal home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her poems pay homage to the myriad forest creatures--birds, foxes, snakes, opossums--and examine her relationship to them. Take, for example, her title poem, "A Thousand Mornings:"

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disapointed?) for redbird to sing.

Throughout the book, Oliver takes a bemused stance toward her own tendency to over-analyze. She is always aware of how small her life is compared to the vastness of the ocean or the eternity of nature. Consider her poem, "The Gardener."

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
      come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

I say this, or perhaps I'm just thinking it.
      Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man, 
      is tending his children, the roses.

An article by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/mary-oliver) notes that Mary Oliver has been compared to other great American lyric poets and celebrators of nature, including Mrianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Muir, and Walt Whitman. Critics have long recognized her talent and have awarded her with The Pulitzer Prize, The Lannan Literary Award and the National Book Award. Now, at age 78, her poems have become more self-reflective.  She writes of the natural world as she stands in awe of its grandeur. She writes of loss and commemorates those she loved--not least of whom was her dog, Percy.

The First Time Percy Came Back

The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him--
      those white curls--
but he was unreachable. As music 
is present yet you can't touch it.
"Yes, it's all different," he said.
"You're going to be very surprised."
But I wasn't thinking of that. I only 
wanted to hold him. "Listen," he said,
"I miss that too.
And now you'll be telling stories 
      of my coming back
and they won't be false, and they won't be true,
but they'll be real."
And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"
And we walked down the beach together.

April is the National Poetry Month.  Check out one of Mary Oliver's collections and experience her eloquence as she describes the joy and pain of being human.

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