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Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

I recommend Mary Oliver’s “New and Selected Poems” to everyone. This book of poetry is absolutely amazing! I found myself completely absorbed in it and was unable to rip myself away. Her word choice, imagery, use of form, are only some of the things I have come to love about this poet. Her poems are so inviting and pleasurable to read, partly because of her unique way of expressing life and partly because of you wonderful use of form.

I was completely in awe of her use of form. Here are some of her poems that really impressed me:

“Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York, 1957”

Once, in summer,

in the blueberries,

I feel asleep, and woke

when a deer stumbled against me.

I guess

she was so busy with her own happiness

she had grown careless

and was just wandering along


to the wind as she leaned down

to lip up the sweetness.

So, there we were

with nothing between us

but a few leaves, and the wind’s

glossy voice

shouting instructions.

The deer

backed away finally

and flung up her white tail

and went floating off toward the tress-

But the moment before she did that

was so wide and so deep

it has lasted to this day;

I have only to think of her-

the flower of her amazement

and the stalled breath of her curiosity,

and even the damp touch of her solicitude

before she took flight-

to be absent again from this world

and alive, again, in another,

for thirty years

sleepy and amazed,

rising out of the rough weeds,

listening and looking.

Beautiful girl,

where are you?

I love this poem. The form is so intriguing, but not only that, Oliver’s word choice is masterful! She describes this scene in such an amazing way. I was blown away by the simplistic beauty of this poem. It is so wonderful!! She surrounds this poem with such a layer of beauty and I could not take myself away from this experience. It was as if I way there meeting this deer also.


Where the path closed

down and over,

through the scumbled leaves,

fallen branches,

through the knotted catbrier,

I kept going. Finally

I could not

save my arms

from the thorns; soon

the mosquitoes

smelled me, hot

and wounded, and came

wheeling and whining.

And that’s how I came

to the edge of the pond:

black and empty

except for a spindle

of bleached reeds

at the far shore

which, as I looked

wrinkled suddenly

into three egrets-

a shower

of white fire!

Even half-asleep they had

such faith in the world

that had made them-

tilting though the water,

unruffled, sure,

by the laws

of their faith not logic,

they opened their wings

softly and stepped

over every dark thing.

This poem is fabulous! The sound and word choice is beautiful, and the form adds so much to it.  Another poem that has great word choice is her poem August, in which she creates an amazing picture with her words:

(second stanza)

all day among the high

branches, reaching

my ripped arms, thinking

Her enjambment is terrific! I am constantly rereading these poems and finding myself more and more in love

with them. In her poem ” Robert Schumann,”New and Selected Poems Oliver’s enjambment is particularly stunning:

Hardly a day passes I don’t think of him

in the asylum: younger

than I am now, trudging the long road down

through madness toward death.

Everywhere in this world his music

explodes out of itself, as he

could not. And now I understand

something so frightening, and wonderful-

how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing

through crossroads, sticking

like lint to the familiar. So!

Hardly a day passes I don’t

think of him: nineteen, say, and it is

spring in Germany

and he has just met a girl named Clara.

He turns the corner,

he scrapes the dirt from his soles,

he runs up the dark staircase, humming.

There is so much voice and life in Oliver’s poems. I loved reading these poems out loud, and found myself stopping co-workings in order to read her poems to them and share the beauty of her work.  The rhythm of the poems are intoxicating. I found that after reading her works, I really wanted to challenge myself as a poet to use more voice, sound, and form. Each page of this book is overflowing with vividness and life. I have grown so much within my own poetry by following her example. If you are looking for a poet to read that you can really learn and grow from, Oliver is it!