Mary Oliver- Wild Geese
Poetry has always been a source of inspiration to me, and in dark times as well as times of pure elation I have often written my thoughts down on paper which have served to mark particular points in my life. I have also written for others in my family and also when I have been inspired by a particular place. My daughter says I should publish my work- so maybe one day, but until then I find myself humbled by the works of one poet in particular that has inspired me, that being the wonderful Mary Oliver.
In case you are not familiar with her work she is a very talented American lady, now in her late seventies. She is well known for her work which is deeply drawn from her roots in Ohio, and later from her long term home in New England. She is a nature lover and observer, and it is from this deep understanding that she has of the natural world that she is able to gain great insight into the relationship between this and the man made and human existence that goes on alongside. For me her best work lies inside this publication "Wild Geese" which is an absolute treasure to me for so many reasons.
Many of you may know that I have an overwhelming love of the natural world and seek solace in places where solitude is possible. You will often find me on a rock in the Outer Hebrides where I sit and watch- it doesn't matter whether it is wild Atlantic breakers or the rare sight of an otter on the foreshore, it captivates me so much more than items for sale in shops or busy city centres. Yes I can enjoy these sometimes, but escaping to places to be with nature is absolutely integral to who I am, and this is why I find these poems so inspirational. There is nothing so awe inspiring as a flock of wild geese flying overhead on a dark Autumn morning illuminating the battleship grey skies with a red arrows formation in sparkling silver. This is the theme that runs through all the poems in this book- they are a reflection of nature, but more importantly they are about the way we as humans feel and live our lives, and can we learn something from the natural world to make sense of our short time here on Earth?
I have my dear daughter to thank for introducing me to Mary many years ago when she purchased this book for me. She knew that I loved the poems of Robert Frost, a love that started in my teenage years when I had to study them for A level, and these poems are in many ways drawn from a similar standpoint, that being about the way nature and human existence are related. She assumed I would fall in love with them and she was so right.
On opening the book I will always remember the way I felt as the first few pages are not poems but rather thoughts and observations, and it was the last one that really made me think.
" And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead and that first world that old house is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost or sold- but more books bought and in another place board by board and stone by stone like a house a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things:loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper and my own energy- and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Nile and The Amazons flowing. And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine, I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it, Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes. "
I just love the sentiments of this as I can identify with all the words. As a fifty something mum with elderly and infirm parents, the house I grew up in sold, and my own dear little dog approaching the winter of her life, it has a connection to me, and so too is the way that we are all responsible for our own lives and for living them with gratitude and respect for the natural world.
The poems that follow in this book are all inspirational and recently I had the joy of discovering that some of them have been published on YouTube with beautiful images and these really make them come to life. "Wild Geese" is one of these you can easily find on there and this poem is pure delight when set to imagery and highlighted with stunning photography.
"The Journey" too has the most amazing YouTube presentation and this poem is one of my favourites as it is about being true to yourself and not listening to others who want you to live as they do-
"But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
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."
Another favourite of mine is "The Summer Day" which is a reflection of nature and the beauty we often miss as we race through life
"Tell me what should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon,
Tell me what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
I could go on and on talking about these poems because each one is important and says something that touches me on one way or another. I love the way she describes animals and plants in intricate detail - there is so much richness in her writing style that you can see the images in your mind without illustrations to guide you.
I think the poem that really imprints something in my mind that I have felt for so long, and I think is probably something that is relevant to us all as we review things on Dooyoo, is that called simply "The Sun." We all love new things, I know I do, whether it is a new blusher or the latest phone, but there is nothing in the material world that comes close to the simple awe that you feel watching the sun as it rises and sets heralding the start and end of the day. The last few lines are simply beautiful-
Do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--
or have you too
Mary Oliver Wild Geese £6.79 Amazon with secondhand copies at half this cost.