Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver
A sad ending as January turns to February. Mary Oliver, poet of exquisite detail and reverence for nature, died on January 17. For over five decades Mary Oliver’s poems served as snapshots of the natural landscapes and rhythms of life.
Take a minute, or two, or two hundred, and nurture yourself with Mary Oliver’s poems.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
A Poem for the First Monday of the Year, perhaps for students to listen to at some point today:
by Mary Oliver
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
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?
Listen to this poem read by Garrison Keillor (cue to 3:00)
National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets.
There are many, many online resources to celebrate!
The New York Times created a Tumblr to feature Haiku poetry, updated during the day. An algorithm checks the New York Times homepage for newly published articles. Then it scans each sentence looking for potential haikus by using an electronic dictionary containing syllable counts. http://haiku.nytimes.com/
I love the National Poetry Foundation’s website with its Poet digest and a free download of it current issue. About Harriet is the Poetry Foundation’s blog for poetry and related news. The website also offers a Poem a day for email delivery.
For the most up-to-date information about the National Student Poets’ events, please visit Scholastic’s media room.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992 Beacon Press, Boston, MA