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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The poetic power of observation


“I love the line of Flaubert about observing things very intensely. I think our duty as writers begins not with our own feelings, but with the powers of observing.” – Mary Oliver

People want poetry, this renowned poet states matter-of-factly.  That’s why she started writing it and has become one of the best ever in the genre.   “They need poetry. They get it. They don't want fancy work,” she said. “I consider myself kind of a reporter - one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write.

Born this date in 1935, Oliver won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her poetic stylings, and The New York Times described her as "far and away, [America's] best-selling poet.”

She began writing poetry at the age of 14, and at 17 visited the home of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in upstate New York. She and Norma, the poet's sister, became friends, and Oliver "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," and assisting with organizing the St. Vincent Millay's papers -- another writing obsession.

  Mary Oliver
Oliver's own poetry turns towards nature for its inspiration and describes the sense of wonder it instills in her. "When it's over," she says, "I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.  I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."
 
Here’s an Oliver poetic sample
A Dream of Trees
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.


There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.


I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?


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