Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rural Poet #3: Mary Oliver


No list of rural poetry would be complete without a mention of Mary Oliver. Born in Ohio, Oliver made her way to the rich green world of New England, and her work is brimming with both the wild plains of the midwest and the verdant hollows of the forest.

May, and among the miles of leafing,
blossoms storm out of the darkness --
windflowers and moccasin flowers. The bees
dive into them, and I too, to gather
their spiritual honey.

from May

Oliver likes to inhabit not only wild environments, but also wild animals. Using the poem as a vehicle for transformation, Oliver is able to step into bodies furry or feathered, and rejoice in a new way.

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees -- a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything
lost is found.

from Honey at the Table

And rejoicing is really what she's doing. Oliver imbues her work with joy, wonder, and praise at the miraculous in nature, from the great bear to the lowly mushroom. To read Oliver is awaken again to childhood, when we could reach the heights of spiritual awakening by running barefoot in the grass, watching a meteor shower, or eating fruit warmed and ripened by the sun.

Joy

is a taste before
it's anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

from The Plum Trees

For further reading:

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