Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver's The Leaf and the Cloud is both a pondering and a questioning of how the poem can be used as a reflection of the natural world. As the speaker says in "From The Book of Time" on page 17, "maybe the world, without us, / is the real poem."

If you love to read descriptions of the natural world and consider what our role is as both inhabiters and observers of nature, get this book. It is a startling and beautiful rendering of how a poem can use the sensuality of nature to explore emotion, circumstance, and philosophical questioning. Great stuff.

Here is an excerpt from "Work," a lengthy segment in which the speaker muses over the nature and purpose of writing poetry.


4.

All day I have been pining for the past.
That's when the big dog, Luke, breathed at my side.
Then she dashed away then she returned
in and out of the swales, in and out of the creeks,
her dark eyes snapping.
Then she broke, slowly,
in the rising arc of a fever.

And now she's nothing
except for mornings when I take a handful of words
and throw them into the air
so that she dashes up again out of the darkness,

like this--

this is the world.

Mary Oliver


The speaker is describing the process of writing memory into poetry. By throwing a "handful of words...into the air," she conjures her dog Luke to her side. "This is the world," the speaker states; not just what we can actively touch and see and hear, but also that which we create from our own minds. To the poet, memory can be as tangible and present as the world rushing around right outside the door.

2 comments:

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Hi- I particularly like the last summary line of your post. So true! BTW, I'll be adding you to my SIlken Threads blog because that is where I write more poetry. Need a few days to catch up from sending our first to art school. Whew. :)

Josse said...

I think words have the power to conjure things into being. They are very powerful things. I was walking along the road the other day in a lovely part of Brooklyn when a woman ahead of me recognized the dog a man was walking. She went up to the dog and his owner let him off the leash. The dog went crazy running figure of eights at full speed and including all of us in his/her joy. so I totally related to your poem. The dog and it's joy put me in the present moment and taught me how much fun "being here now" can be!