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Who is Mary Oliver?

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Some time ago one of my readers submitted a comment which included a few lines from a poem by Mary Oliver. I reposted the comment as a blog entry because it was particularly complimentary and I enjoyed the poetry. Soon aftrer I began to notice an increase of visitors to my blog. At first I imagined it was because of some wise or interesting thing I had written, until, that is, someone showed me how to research what key words readers were searching for when they found my blog.

The culprit: "Mary Oliver"

One or America's best loved poets was driving traffic to my site. Visitors were finding my blog because of the few lines of Mary's poetry. Oh the indignity.

I read more about her and read more of her poetry and began to understand the love affair the poetry reading world continues to have with her work.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. [...]
The world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

From "Wild Geese"; Dream Work (1986)

Interesting Bits:

  • Her fifth collection of poetry, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.
  • She fell for her partner of 40 years, hook line and sinker, love at first sight style: Molly Malone Cook, who would become literary agent and live with Mary in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
  • She attended two colleges, Ohio State University and Vassar College, but did not receive a degree at either one.

A Thousand Mornings

New And Selected Poems


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