Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mary Oliver

I love the poetry of Mary Oliver; I have read several of her books, and so far, I love Red Bird best. She is seventy-three years old, and as she tells us in her poem “Self-Portrait,” she is “still in love with life. And still full of beans.” It’s true. In this book, there’s a melancholy I have not seen so much in the others I’ve read. But her love of nature seems deeper than ever, as well as her love and reverence for God.

To Mary Oliver, the precious creations of God are everywhere in nature. Here is her poem “Red Bird”:

Red bird came all winter

firing up the landscape

as nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,

those dun-colored darlings,

so hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds.

I know He has many children,

not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason—

perhaps because the winter is so long

and the sky so black-blue,

or perhaps because the heart narrows

as often as it opens—

I am grateful

that red bird comes all winter

firing up the landscape

as nothing else can do.

To read her poetry is to drink fresh spring water, to wade in the ocean, to experience the soul-deep colors of sunsets and bird feathers, to leap with deer and fly with geese. It is a celebration of life.

Oliver, Mary. Red Bird. Boston: Beacon, 2008.

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