In Memorium: Mary Oliver

The celebrated poet Mary Oliver has left us at the age of 83.

Details of her life and achievements may be found here, but I’d like to say, as an Atheopagan, how meaningful her work was to me, and, I think, to all who find grace and meaning in the movements and manifestations of the natural world.

Oliver’s poetry was conversational, accessible. Mostly, she wrote in complete sentences broken by white space. Not for her the opacity that so often passes for “great poetry”; hers was a body of work addressed to people who live here, in the world, and who are struck by moments of wonder and reflection. She famously said, “poetry mustn’t be fancy”.

We’ve all read it many times, but I will close with her most famous work, “Wild Geese”, in which she reminds us of the eternal beauty of this Sacred Earth, and that each of us has a place in the world.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.



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