Au revoir, Mary Oliver, and hello.


Mary Oliver died last week, but I don’t feel that she herself is finished (she’s bound to be collecting new material), or that she’s finished blessing us with her poems and perspectives. It was not many years ago that I first learned of her work, and I continue to find delight in her language and insights. I want to be saying hello to her work, not goodbye.

I spent some time this weekend reading a selection of her poems. There are so many I could recommend: “Lightning,” “A Dream of Trees,” “Daisies,” “Blossom,” “Egrets,” “Fall Song,” “Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith,” “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches.” I wanted to share excerpts from a few that spoke to me particularly. First, some words from her poem called “A Letter from Home”:

The broken year will make no change
Upon her wise and whirling heart; –
She knows how people always plan
To live their lives, and never do.

I think we all have a plan, perhaps not formally acknowledged, of how we’ll live our lives, and so many days are exceptions. We’ll start tomorrow, yes, of course.

And here’s a delightful passage from her poem, “Flare.”

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.


What can I say? She’s making places we can step inside. She’s making ways for us to feel more part of everything.


This last one I’ll share in its entirety:



Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

There’s so much more of her work to delight in. I enjoyed exploring at


Mary Oliver as a young woman


[Images: WPPB,]

6 thoughts on “Au revoir, Mary Oliver, and hello.

  1. Thank you for that, Lori. I have loved Mary Oliver poetry for years. Hope you all are well and happily established.

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