Mary Oliver

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mat james
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by mat james » Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:56 am

I do know
...how to be idle and blessed,
...Tell me, what else should I have done?
Yes,"Idle and blessed"
the great days.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
indy
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by indy » Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:30 am

Hi Diane,

I enjoyed reading this selection of Oliver's poems, many of which I was unfamiliar with.
"Walker, there is no road, only wind-trails in the sea." Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly
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Diane
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by Diane » Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:31 am

Hi Indy. She's a fine poet isn't she. I have sent for her latest volume, Evidence, as one of my Christmas presents to myself.

Welcome to the forum. I like very much your signature quote.
Red Poppy
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by Red Poppy » Fri Dec 11, 2009 6:27 pm

Evidence is an interesting collection - wonder what you'll make of it!
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by indy » Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:59 pm

Diane, yes, Oliver is one of my favorite poets. I had the opportunity to hear her read a few years ago, but I haven't kept up with her recent work. I'd love to see a discussion of Evidence between you and Red Poppy when you have read it. :)
"Walker, there is no road, only wind-trails in the sea." Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by lonndubh » Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:29 pm

Red Poppy
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by Red Poppy » Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:04 pm

Great link lonndubh. Thanks for posting it here.
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by lonndubh » Sun Dec 13, 2009 3:02 pm

Yes Red Poppy it is a good link.
I am always interested in the landscape that inspires and becomes a mirror for the deeper personal experiences and where here in this her ' local' becomes the universal

Mary (another one !)Duendald the author wrote
After a few days in the Province Lands, just before leaving, I stopped back at good old Blackwater Pond. Birdwatchers were quietly making their way along the Beech Forest Trail, stopping to aim their binoculars at orioles and black-throated blue warblers. I sat beside the water under a bunch of pines and opened Ms. Oliver’s “American Primitive” to reread “In Blackwater Woods” and imagine this landscape in other seasons, when “the trees/are turning/their own bodies/into pillars/of light” and “cattails/are bursting and floating away,” part of the cycle of life here that Ms. Oliver has watched so many times. Her appeal to her audience seems especially clear here — her sharp eye, her tugs of emotion as she relates the outer world to a deeper interior experience:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
lonndubh
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by lonndubh » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:35 am

I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.
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Diane
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by Diane » Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:44 pm

Good morning, Indy, Red Poppy and L! You don't mind me calling you L? I can't ever figure out how many n's and d's and b's you have going on:-)

That article won't load for me, L. I will try again later, would like to see The Blackwater Pond. I like the poem above, but she seems to be stating the obvious.

What are your favourite Mary Oliver lines everyone? As I am obsessed with heron, these some of mine:

. . . see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind;
see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.
lonndubh
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by lonndubh » Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:17 pm

Hi Diane .L will do nicely :D Have been called worse letters : :shock:
Here is the article and the pic of Blackwater pond
Will reply with my favorite lines later
BY half-past 5 on a morning in early May, the sun rising over Blackwater Pond had already brightened the pine woods. I stood in a wide natural path, carpeted with brown-red needles, that rises up the forested dune from the southwest side of the pond. In the high branches of the pines and beeches and honeysuckles, the birds were carrying on their racket — warblers, goldfinches, woodpeckers, doves and chickadees. But on the sandy ground among the trunks, nothing moved. Perfect stillness. Could this have been where Mary Oliver had seen the deer?
She had written about them in more than one poem, but most famously in “Five A.M. in the Pinewoods”:

I’d seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes ...

This is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be. ...

If the deer hadn’t been at this particular spot, they must have been no farther than a mile or two away, because this small patch of earth, a two-mile-long smattering of a dozen or so freshwater ponds on the northwest tip of Cape Cod, is where Mary Oliver, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who has a devoted audience, has set most of her poetry since she arrived in Provincetown in the 1960s.

She moved to Provincetown to be with the woman she loved, and to whom she has dedicated her books of poetry, Molly Malone Cook. As Ms. Oliver explained it in “Our World,” a collection of Ms. Cook’s photographs that she published two years after Ms. Cook’s death in 2005, the two of them had met at Steepletop, the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, when both of them were there in the late 1950s visiting Norma Millay, the late poet’s sister, and her husband. “I took one look and fell, hook and tumble,” Ms. Oliver said in “Our World.”

Ms. Cook was drawn to Provincetown, where she ran a gallery and later opened a bookstore, and once Ms. Oliver was there with her, “I too fell in love with the town,” she recalled, “that marvelous convergence of land and water; Mediterranean light; fishermen who made their living by hard and difficult work from frighteningly small boats; and, both residents and sometime visitors, the many artists and writers. ... M. and I decided to stay.”

Before long, she had discovered the Province Lands, 3,500 acres of national parkland tucked away on the other side of Route 6 from Provincetown itself. The tract was named the Province’s Lands in 1691 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony became a royal province as it absorbed Plymouth Colony and the land that had belonged to the Pilgrims (and absorbed Maine as well). This is not the Cape Cod of beaches and sailboats, shops and art galleries, but rather a small, shady and cool wilderness quietly teeming with life — a geological and biological wonder that stands in relative obscurity on the Cape.

“Most people think of Cape Cod as beaches and ocean, but quite a bit of it is forested, and there are all types of different freshwater ponds,” said Robert Cook, a wildlife ecologist for the Cape Cod National Seashore. This part of the Cape is relatively new land. It is made not of glacial moraine, as the rest of Cape Cod is, but of sand that eroded from cliffs farther south and was shaped into parabolic dunes by the Atlantic winds and currents. As this sand settled, ponds were formed in depressions in the dunes, and a rich deciduous forest mixed with stands of pine grew up from the sandy soil.

This is what the Pilgrims beheld in 1620, when they landed at the future site of Provincetown. The ponds and forests of the Province Lands are, Mr. Cook said, a small “undisturbed remnant” of Cape Cod’s ancient past. Ms. Oliver’s poems draw vivid pictures of all manner of life in this tightly contained ecosystem: blacksnakes swimming, foxes running, goldfinches singing, blue herons wading, and lilies that “break open over the dark water.”

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

Follow Ms. Oliver’s lead to the edges of Blackwater Pond and you can have something approaching a primal experience of Cape Cod. You won’t be alone, especially in summer, when crowds gather to see the locally beloved water lilies that blanket the ponds. But that’s why it pays to go at dawn, as the poet prefers to do. (Known to be a quiet, private person, Ms. Oliver declined to be interviewed or photographed for this article, saying she preferred to let her work speak for itself.)

Finding your way through her stomping grounds without a guide is not simple. Her 2004 collection “Why I Wake Early” is sold in the shop at the Province Lands Visitor Center nevertheless, and although she is well loved in Provincetown and sometimes gives readings at the town library, the rangers who were there on the day I stopped in had not heard of her. Nor had they heard of her beloved Blackwater Pond, which is not even marked on the Cape Cod National Seashore map.
This is especially odd, given that Blackwater is the only one of the ponds in the area that is encircled by a well-groomed and marked trail, the Beech Forest Trail. This can be reached by car, less than half a mile up Race Point Road from Route 6, on the left, and there is a roomy parking lot at the trailhead. Most pedestrian visitors to the Province Lands ponds confine their walks to this trail. But there are ways to get deeper into the woods and see the other ponds.

You can make your way toward Great, Pasture, Bennett and the other ponds to the southwest of Blackwater on the bicycle path, though on the May weekend when I was there, this was flooded and impassable by foot at some points. Also, there are a couple of very subtly marked fire roads leading into the pond area from Route 6, between Race Point Road and Route 6A to the west. (Driving west, you need to look closely for little openings in the trees where there are white signs that say “Conservation Area.”)

Once on the fire lanes, you come across smaller paths leading here and there, dead-ending as often as not at a swampy edge of a pond, blocked by weeds and trees. If you can find your way to Clapp’s Pond, you can take a footpath all the way around. But this is not easy to find; it’s not marked on the park maps, and in the woods, it’s easy to get lost.

“It’s one of the secret places the locals know,” said Polly Brunnell, an artist who lives is Provincetown and calls herself a pond walker. “Tourists don’t know about it at all. I don’t tell too many people about it. It’s our townie place.”

But even if you don’t find a particular pond, the paths leading away from the fire road allow for a nice walk. The climbs are gentle, and in most places the sandy soil is so cushy you can go barefoot, which helps set the proper pace. You’d need to spend a long time here, probably several hours each morning for at least a year, to see all the life Ms. Oliver describes and the annual rhythms she chronicles — cattails rising in spring, water lilies opening in summer, goldenrod rustling in the fall breezes and vines frozen in winter. Or you can simply take her poetry along with you for a long walk in the woods. Based as they are on her patient and scientifically informed observations, her poems allow you to see the deeper life of this little American wilderness.

Down at Blackwater
blacksnake went swimming, scrolling
close to the shore, only
his head above the water, the long
yard of his body just beneath the
surface,
quick and gleaming. ...

I carried a handful of paperback collections of her poems, and I also downloaded to my iPhone her hourlong CD “At Blackwater Pond,” on which Ms. Oliver reads 42 of her poems, and listened as I sought out the places and creatures she describes. (Ms. Oliver herself has said that “poetry is meant to be heard.”)

To follow in Ms. Oliver’s footsteps is not to power walk, but to stroll and stop often to take in sights and sounds and feelings. As she told an interviewer 15 years ago: “When things are going well, you know, the walk does not get rapid or get anywhere: I finally just stop, and write. That’s a successful walk!”

Once, she added, she found herself in the woods with no pen and so later went around and hid pencils in some of the trees.

In her back pocket, Ms. Oliver carries a 3-by-5-inch hand-sewn notebook for recording impressions and phrases that often end up in poems, she explained in 1991. In that same essay, she also revealed a few of the entries, including these:

“The cry of the killdeer/like a tiny sickle.”

“little myrtle warblers/kissing the air”

“When will you have a little pity for/every soft thing/that walks through the world,/yourself included?”
fter some hours in the quiet Province Lands, Provincetown itself, with its busy shopping and eating district, exerts a pull. I drove back into the town, parked on Commercial Street, and stopped at the Mews Café for brunch. Seated in the beach-level dining room, I watched the waves smooth the harbor sand while I ate lobster Benedict. Some of the other patrons walked through an open door into the breezy sunshine, where people were strolling on the sand. Ms. Oliver, who is 73, still lives on Commercial Street, on the eastern side of Provincetown, in a building that backs onto the harbor. She has described it as being “about 10 feet from the water” — unless there is a storm blowing from the southeast, and then it is “about a foot from the water.” A child of the Midwest, she grew up in Maple Heights, Ohio, outside Cleveland, where her father was a social studies teacher and an athletics coach in the Cleveland public schools. She began writing poetry at the age of 14, and in 1953, at 17 and just out of high school, she got the idea to simply drive off to Austerlitz in upstate New York to visit the home of the late Edna St. Vincent Millay.
She and Norma, the poet’s sister, became friends, Ms. Oliver recalled in “Our World,” and so she “more or less lived there for the next six or seven years, running around the 800 acres like a child, helping Norma, or at least being company to her.” Eventually, she moved to Greenwich Village, and it was on a return visit to the Millay house that she met Ms. Cook.

From 1963 to April of this year, when her most recent book, “Evidence,” came out, she has published 18 volumes of poetry, plus six books of prose; all but two of her books are still in print. Her Pulitzer Prize came in 1984, and in 1992 she won the National Book Award. From time to time over what she has called her “40-year conversation” with Ms. Cook, she or the couple together would go off to places like Sweet Briar, Va., and Bennington, Vt., where Ms. Oliver would teach poetry writing. But their home base was always Provincetown.

“People say to me: wouldn’t you like to see Yosemite? The Bay of Fundy? The Brooks Range?” she wrote in “Long Life,” a book of essays. “I smile and answer, ‘Oh yes — sometime,’ and go off to my woods, my ponds, my sun-filled harbor, no more than a blue comma on the map of the world but, to me, the emblem of everything.”

She does give some of her time to the sea, walking along the shore — especially, it seems along Herring Cove, just northwest of Provincetown below the curled top of Cape Cod. She has told in her poetry of picking up an ancient eardrum bone from a pilot whale and has written about the whelks: “always cracked and broken —/clearly they have been traveling/under the sky-blue waves/for a long time.”

Herring Cove is a peaceful stretch of sand for a morning walk, one of the rare beaches on the East Coast that faces west. And it comes with two large parking lots. A stroll from the car northwest to where, the morning I was there, the ocean water was streaming onto the beach, and back, took about 40 minutes.

Another day, wanting a different kind of exercise, I tried my hand — or rather, my feet — at crossing the Provincetown breakwater, a half-mile-long row of enormous cubes of stone. The Army Corps of Engineers constructed this barrier in 1911 to keep shifting sands from the dunes out of the harbor. People of all ages were crossing with ease, it appeared, leaping in places from one angled surface of rock to the next. But once I got out a ways, I starting thinking about how long it might take to make it all the way there and back (it is said to take one to two hours each way, depending on your pace) and what would happen if I turned an ankle. The reward for making it all the way across is a walk on Long Point, a curving strip of beach less than two miles long, with lighthouses on either end, but I didn’t make it.

At dawn the next morning, I was back in the woods.

Walking the trails, you may not see every sight Mary Oliver’s eyes have taken in, but you will be hard-pressed to find anything she hasn’t turned into verse. I thought of this as I watched a half-dozen little white butterflies flitting around the sunlit spots on a trail in front me, then looked through her books to see if she had written about them. Indeed, in the collection “Blue Iris,” I found “Seven White Butterflies”: “Seven white butterflies/delicate in a hurry look/how they bang the pages/of their wings as they fly . ...”

After a few days in the Province Lands, just before leaving, I stopped back at good old Blackwater Pond. Birdwatchers were quietly making their way along the Beech Forest Trail, stopping to aim their binoculars at orioles and black-throated blue warblers. I sat beside the water under a bunch of pines and opened Ms. Oliver’s “American Primitive” to reread “In Blackwater Woods” and imagine this landscape in other seasons, when “the trees/are turning/their own bodies/into pillars/of light” and “cattails/are bursting and floating away,” part of the cycle of life here that Ms. Oliver has watched so many times. Her appeal to her audience seems especially clear here — her sharp eye, her tugs of emotion as she relates the outer world to a deeper interior experience:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go
.
Attachments
Blackwater pond.jpg
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friscogrl
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by friscogrl » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:58 pm

Thanks Diane for posting these poems by Mary Oliver. I love their imagery and poignancy. I was not aware of her before I read these postings. I just ordered New and Selected Poems Vol. 1. as I thought this might be a good introduction to her work.

Marsha
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by lonndubh » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:25 am

Diane wrote:What are your favourite Mary Oliver lines everyone?
Lines that stick in my mind are lines from the Buddha's last Instruction
"Make of yourself a light"
This line helped me overcome and pass through a wall that seemed impossible for a moment.

Another few lines remembered remind me of July when I sent them by text to a good friend who was weeding carrots on a
Saturday morning -
lines from
One or two things

The God of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things,I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice;now,
he said,and now;

and never once mentioned forever.

And then there's those lines from
When Death Comes

When it's over.I don't want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular,and real
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full or argument .

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world

friscogrl wrote:I just ordered New and Selected Poems Vol. 1. as I thought this might be a good introduction to her work.
All the above mentioned lines are from New and Selected Poems Vol. 1
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friscogrl
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by friscogrl » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:14 am

Thanks for posting those lines lonndubh. I feel a strong pull to Mary's words. I can't wait read to read more.

Marsha
2008 Toronto June 6/ 2009 New York Feb 19 Oakland April 13 14 Coachella April 17 Ottawa May 25 26 Barcelona Sept 21 Las Vegas 11/12 San Jose 11/13
2010 Malmo Aug 4 Gothenburg Aug 12 Las Vegas Dec 10 & 11
2012 Verona 9/24 San Jose 11/7. Montreal 11/28 11/29/ 2013 Oakland 3/2 NYC 4/6
Hamilton 4/9
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Diane
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Re: Mary Oliver

Post by Diane » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:31 am

Excellent that you discovered Mary Oliver, Marsha. You are in for a treat. You may want to get Selected Poems Vol. two at a later date.

Occasionally Mary O gets a bit over-sentimental, imo, but that's a small gripe against how I can get lost in the accuracy of the scenes she paints, and the one-liners that hit the spot.

Thank you for posting that article, L. Blackwater Pond looks like a Monet. Fascinating to read the lines you quoted and the reasons, thanks. What strikes me about The Buddha's last Instruction are the last lines:

Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.


You can imagine it - the Buddha was not afraid of dying, but the crowd around him were afraid of death. It makes me wonder how many people's last consciousness is of looking into the faces of a 'frightened crowd'.

Here are some lines I like from the poem Heavy, about grief, from her 2007 book Thirst.

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled-
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?


A rose being dismantled by the wind is a very fine image, and I like the suggestion of finding equivalent beauty in a helpless love for someone gone.
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