Mary Oliver: You were one of us

“Oliver told NPR that simplicity was important to her. “Poetry, to be understood, must be clear,” she said. “It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary should not be in the poem.”

I know many women who are a part of our writing circles at Women Writing for a Change are mourning the passing of Mary Oliver this week. Sometimes I believe Mary Oliver’s poetry was the grease that moved our collective into being. Circle after circle, we would use a poem by Mary O. to help us write our way through grief and injustice and understanding the human condition. So many of her poems were touchstones that in fact when I heard she had died, it felt like a fellow writing sister had died. This woman had been next to me in many circles and readings, and I didn’t even know her.

But little by little, as you left their voices behind,  through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do- determined to save the only life you could save. ~ From The Journey

Mary was the poet who taught me that it is okay to like poetry. That poems don’t always have to be so fancy it takes a seminar to understand them. That words, meter, metaphor, allusion and everything that goes into a perfect poem belongs to everyone. It is Mary that first gave me the notion that I might write poetry and that in fact, poetry is the great healer, great uniter, great witness to our love and lives.

When I read her biography, I learn that she spent her life pursuing her two great loves: nature and poetry. What a wonderful life, I think. Not only am I admiring that she was able to live as she loved, but that she so generously shared it with the world. She also wrote so much about death being the natural order of things that I know she is at peace. As sad as I am, I feel that peace welling up in me as well.

“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,” ~ Mary Oliver

I am grateful for her life. I am grateful that she shared her words with the world. Mostly I am grateful to be a part of a humankind (and a local writing program) that would treasure and uplift someone so beautiful. I join my writing sisters and men and women everywhere in lighting a candle for one of the true great writers of my generation. She wasn’t fancy. She didn’t need to be. She just told us the truth in her heart. Thank you for your words Mary Oliver.

“When it’s over, I want to say all my life/ I was a bride married to amazement.”~ Mary Oliver

~ Amy for the PGM

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