In Memorium: Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses

I was saddened to learn yesterday, that the poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019) died. Today I am posting a review I did of her book, Blue Horses back in 2014. She is one of my favorite poets.


Blue Horses

from Blue Horses:

“The Country Of The Trees”

There is no king in their country
and there is no queen
and there are no princes vying for power,
inventing corruption.
Just as with us many children are born
and some will live and some will die and the country
will continue.

The weather will always be important.

And there will always be room for the weak, the violets
and the bloodroot.
When it is cold they will be given blankets of leaves.
When it is hot they will be given shade.
And not out of guilt, neither for a year-end deduction
but maybe for the cheer of their colors, their
small flower faces.

They are not like us.

Some will perish to become houses or barns,
fences and bridges.
Others will endure past the counting of years.
And none will ever speak a single word of complaint,
as though language, after all,
did not work well enough, was only an early stage.
Neither do they ever have any questions to the gods—
which one is the real one, and what is the plan.
As though they have been told everything already,
and are content.

Mary Oliver had been writing poetry more than 40 years before I ever encountered her poems “The Journey” and “Wild Geese,” and she became one of my favorite poets. Her work drops me down into a meditative realm, and I feel the homey and raw aspects of this natural world that are feeding my body and senses at all times.

The 39 poems in Blue Horses feel like prayers to me. They don’t strive to answer questions, but turn things over like seasons in the hand. Some favorites (this week) are “Blueberries,” “Such Silence,” “Watering the Stones,” “Drifting,” “On Not Watering The Lawn,” “Do Stones Feel?,” “What Gorgeous Thing,” and “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac.”

Somehow Mary Oliver’s poetry makes me feel that her attentiveness to this world is because she was a stone, or a wren, or a cloud before she came here; and when she leaves she will become a hummingbird, or a violet, or a bluebird next time around.

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