Who is Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver was an “indefatigable guide to the natural world,” wrote Maxine Kumin in the Women’s Review of Books, “particularly to its lesser-known aspects.” Oliver’s poetry focused on the quiet of occurrences of nature: industrious hummingbirds, egrets, motionless ponds, “lean owls / hunkering with their lamp-eyes.” Kumin also noted that Oliver “stands quite comfortably on the margins of things, on the line between earth and sky, the thin membrane that separates human from what we loosely call animal.” Oliver’s poetry won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement. Reviewing Dream Work (1986) for the Nation, critic Alicia Ostriker numbered Oliver among America’s finest poets, as “visionary as [Ralph Waldo] Emerson.”
Mary Oliver Quotes
1. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
2. Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
3. Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
4. You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.
5. I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
6. Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
7. Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.
8. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.
9. You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.
10. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.
11. Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
12. Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.
13. Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.
14. If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)
15. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
16. it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.
17. It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.
18. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.
19. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.
20. When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
21. Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
22. And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?
23. I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…
24. A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the trees, or the laws which pertain to them …
25. Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.
26. But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive.
27. I believe in kindness. Also in mischief.
28. from the complications of loving you i think there is no end or return. no answer, no coming out of it. which is the only way to love, isn’t it? this isn’t a playground, this is earth, our heaven, for a while. therefore i have given precedence to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods that hold you in the center of my world. and i say to my body: grow thinner still. and i say to my fingers, type me a pretty song. and i say to my heart: rave on.
29. Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness. Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect.
30. After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.
31. I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can’t really call being alive.
32. I feel the terror of idleness, like a red thirst. Death isn’t just an idea.
33. Come with me into the woods where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.
34. Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing—the reason they can fly.
35. Therefore, dark past, I’m about to do it. I’m about to forgive you for everything.
36. There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled. Like, telling someone you love them. Or giving your money away, all of it. Your heart is beating, isn’t it? You’re not in chains, are you? There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.
37. When it’s over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
38. Poetry is a life-cherishing force.
39. I wanted the past to go away, I wanted to leave it, like another country; I wanted my life to close, and open like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song where it falls down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery; I wanted to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know, whoever I was, I was alive for a little while.
40. Listen, whatever you see and love that’s where you are.
41. What will you do with your one precious, wild life?
42. Always there is something worth saying about glory, about gratitude.
43. Be prepared. A dog is adorable and noble. A dog is a true and loving friend. A dog is also a hedonist.
44. Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing, but looking, and touching, and loving
45. Far off in the red mangroves an alligator has heaved himself onto a hummock of grass and lies there, studying his poems.
46. And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead / children out of the fields into the text / of civility, to teach them that they are (they are not) better than the grass.
47. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.
48. Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
49. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
50. I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the
leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves – we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.