Saturday, March 31, 2012


Dear Mary,

Your words and poems have made a difference to me in many ways.  I first used them when I conducted the memorial service for a friend of mine back in 2005, and lately for my mother's passing.  I keep your books and a CD of your poetry at my bedside.  I have loved your view of the world and it has influenced mine deeply.  

Thank you. May the peace of the universe be with you.

Anne Greenwood

Friday, March 30, 2012

Like Meeting an Old Friend

Dear Mary,

I first discovered your poetry when a dear friend recommended your work in 2004. A new widow, I needed the comforting words of someone strong and grounded. I immediately bought everything I could find by you and have eagerly awaited each new release since. I always purchase extra copies of your poetry collections so that I can gift copies to friends. 

Reading your poems is like meeting an old friend... or like a shooting star streaking across the sky of my heart. 

Thank you for the love you imbue in each carefully crafted line.

Sending you healing thoughts of peace and joy. 

Christine Christianson

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Little Owl Who Lives in the Forest"

Dear Mary,

In the year 1712, a dark 300 years ago, Alexander Pope published his first version of The Rape of the Lock. Today, we remember the poet but not the poem. In the year 2312, a bright 300 years from now, who could forget Mary Oliver, "the little owl who lives in the forest," the woman who "vanished at least a dozen times into something better," the poet, always "willing to be dazzled."
Thank you, Mary Oliver. You are exactly what the earth wanted.
Jack Cooper

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gifts Instead of Burdens

Dear Mary,

I came across your poetry via a dear friend and can honestly say, as I say of only a few writers and books in the thousands I've read, that your work has made my life both richer and more focused. Your poems on sorrow and suffering have encouraged me to see these as gifts instead of only burdens; your poems describing the natural world have made me see more clearly and desire to develop my sight every day -- with greater clarity not only of the physical world but of what we can see in it. Yours is the only poetry I've been able to share with my husband, who is not a reader of literature, but he "gets" your images and it has been a bridge between us we've never had in over three decades of marriage. I long to learn to "keep my mind on what matters. . .  which is mostly standing still and learning to be / astonished" -- and you have helped me toward that frame of mind. Thank you, and God be with you.

Beth Impson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Before a Trip

Dear Mary,

Once, about to go on a ten day trip through the Olympic Peninsula wilderness, alone and a little scared and sad, I was given a book of your poems.

         What a gift, to find
         Mary Oliver this morning
         Sitting in the living room
        You know what you can
         Do this week, she said,
         You can read my poems to

        The trees, the ocean,
        The mountains.
         It would mean so much to me.

         I would thank you, and hopefully,
         So would the greens and blues,
         The basalt and bark.

That evening I head out for my first reading.   I set out some rules:
   1. Always read aloud.
   2.  Always stand up.
   3.  Do not stop if someone walks by.
   4.  Continue to the end of the poem. 
   5.  Believe that other life forms are listening.
   6.  Speak in a normal voice; don’t whisper.
   7.  Listen for the response.

For ten days this was my practice and joy. Everything from funny encounters to miracles ensued. I recommend this to the solitary traveler.

Thank you.

Kathleen Culver 

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Raw Truth of the World

Dear Mary,

I remember the day I read my first Mary Oliver poem - where I was standing, the light, how the world opened up. I will bless the person who gave it to me forever.  

To share your words with a friend - and just the right ones for the moment... to search the pages for 'the one' -  is an act of deep love.  

Having basked in the beauty, the poignancy, the hanging questions, the raw truth of the world that you offer in your lines, I cannot even imagine my life without them.  I honor you, Mary, for the dedication and courage of staying with your knowing, in spite of the persistency of doubt, that sharing your conversation with nature and its inner soul is indeed what Mary Oliver was to do with her "one wild and precious life." 

Thank you from the depths of my heart.

With love and light,
Purple Hazel Green
aka Christine McQuiston

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When the Noise of the World Has Grown Too Loud

Dear Mary,

I am a poet, a retired high school English teacher, and oddly, a rock and roll DJ on the internet.  I have taught with your poems, used them as an inspiration for my own writing, and retreated to them again and again when the noise of the world around me has grown too loud.  What I have always loved the most about your work is how elegant it is, how there's not a word out of place--and at the same time, how clearly and exactly it communicates.  Even students of mine who had trouble with the whole idea of poetry often loved your writing.  I often turn to it when I come home from my (admittedly beloved) radio station with electric guitars jangling in my head.  It's like being able to open the window and hear the creek moving outside.  I wish you that healing sound, and a speedy recovery.

Christine Potter 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Beauty of that Moment

Dear Mary,

I met you years ago while I was at the Fine Arts Work Center. I'd written a story on which I wanted feedback and which I thought you might find interesting. You invited me to your home and brewed coffee so strong it could have awakened the dead. This was '86, and I no longer remember what we talked about, though the story was eventually published and the collection of which it was a part was a NY Times Notable. But I remember your graciousness, your openness, and the loveliness of your strong hands as they poured the coffee. I have carried the beauty of that moment with me for over 25 years, and still it touches me. I felt blessed.

Thank you,

Richard Spilman

Friday, March 23, 2012


Dear Mary,

May this poem be one of the waves of appreciation in support of your deepest well-being.


Consider all the Marys.
And the Marias, too, if you like.
Let all the Marys fill you
like sunlight sparkling on waves.
And then pick one. A Mary, and a debt
of gratitude you can never repay.
What was her gift?
From time to time I visit a woman
who helps me with my aches and pains.
Sometimes she holds my head in her hands
for minutes at a time. Unusual
to feel another holding my head up.
That’s my job.
It takes some effort
to give her that weight,
but after awhile her coaxing, sensing presence reaches me:
C’mon, let go.
Maybe pain exists to find this kind of love.
At the tidepools in Bolinas with my Dad we squirmed
as the anemones grabbed our little fingers.
How to have a heart like that?
Open to all that washes in,
intruders and grit and the sea itself,
take what nourishes
and release the rest.
Meanwhile, Hell is when every day is judgment day.
The gate swung open, or at least the hinge gave way,
at “you do not have to be good.”
What else would God say through a Mary?
What other saving would a soul require?

J McKnight

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Budding Towards Radiance

Dear Mary,

As a liberal Christian minister in Cambridge, UK serving the Memorial (Unitarian) Church your work has, on more occasions than I can now recall, helped me to leave behind all theories about living and to enter again life itself. In short - to echo your own words in "What I have learnt so far" - your poetry has for me always budded towards radiance, it's a been for me a veritable gospel of light, and your words have consistently ignited me into action.

In gratitude and with love,

Revd Andrew Brown

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Model for Me

Dear Mary,

When I first read your poem "The Summer Day," it took my breath away because I learned all at once three big things about poetry: the minutest thing can become beautiful if it is deeply observed, a poem can be a prayer or praise without ever mentioning God, and the simplest images perfectly observed can seem miraculous in the right words. Those were huge and humbling lessons on the art of poetry, and I’ve never forgotten the poem or that those things should stand as models for me when I write. Please get well soon and write more. Thank you for your every word.

Rachel Dacus 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Dear Mary,

I have most of your books.  I've heard you read.  Your poems were the first choice of my book group.  We are all indebted to you for your commitment to nature and inspiration about living.

Take care,
Valerie Harms

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Homecoming

Dear Mary,

Each year, when I visited Provincetown, I bought one of your books and read it while sitting on one of the beaches, absorbing the places and experiences of the natural world you expressed so well.  Your vision, your love for Nature, have always moved me so.  I see it as you do, as a source of wonder, an amazement of joyous recognition, of a homecoming.  Your poems have been a homecoming for me, a place of solace where I go to recover my centre and connection to what you so eloquently show me: the Divine Source in all things.  Thank you from my heart.  May Brighid place her mantle around you and comfort you.

With love,
Suzanne Duce  

Friday, March 16, 2012

"We are here to encourage each other"

Dear Mary, 

It's funny that when I read Hemingway or Frost I think, "I can't do that," yet when I read you or Jean Rhys, I think, "But maybe I can do that." It's not that your technique is any less brilliant or what you have to say any less profound; it's just that when I read you, I feel like I have something to say in response, and permission to say it. I've carried A Poetry Handbook with me for months at a time, studied and shared it. I like what you say about workshops: "We are here to encourage each other, but not to encourage bad writing." I try for that, thinking of you, as I'm sure other do, too. In that alone you've given us, and poetry, a great legacy. 

Karen Schoemer

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Dear Mary,

"West Wind 2" was the first of your poems that I'd seen, when it was published in an anthology called Soul Food.  It struck a powerful chord with me, and I keep coming back to it.  It also drove me to seek out more of your work, which I've had great joy in discovering.  Your collection Swan is on my desk right now; I'm only part way through it, but I already love it.  

I love your joy in nature, your clear-sighted way of showing what is truly important.  I love that you ask me to pay attention.  

This is sent from a little wet island called the Isle of Man.  It's a long way from your home, but I wish that I could meet you some day, to tell you in person how you have helped me to put things in perspective and to show you the wild things in my world.  I still haven't worked out what I must change in my life, but the important thing for me is to keep trying.  

With very best wishes for your health, heart and soul,

Ruth Baxendale 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Words Which I Say Like a Prayer

Dear Mary,

Your poem “Wild Geese” has helped sustain me in some of the most difficult moments. I’ve long since memorized the words which I say, like a prayer, more days than you can imagine. I share this poem the first Friday of each school year with my Ohio high school students and introduce them to your body of work.  I imagine you in the woods sometimes, as I teach, observing and gathering words like harvest. You have taught me how to pay attention in my life. 

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Tracie Zimmer

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Awareness and Clarity

Dear Mary,
You don't know me, of course (I write mostly books for kids and young adults), and yet when I read a poem of yours I always feels as if you do. In that way you have been with me through every major moment of my adult life, speaking in ways I could not. I, too, live in nature as much as possible, and your poems somehow allow me to see more clearly and feel more deeply what I see and feel there. Thank you for your presence, awareness and clarity in my life! I (and the friends who share your work back and forth when we need it) are glad to learn you are feeling better! We feel better, too.
Stephanie S. Tolan

Monday, March 12, 2012

An Antidote

Dear Mary,

A report that you are ill prompts me to say I hope very much that you can make a strong recovery. I don't need to tell you that your poetry has had a powerful influence on me. I'm continually struck by the way it reaches people I don't regard as regular readers of poetry, most recently a good friend who is a retired law professor and an editor I know at the University of Michigan Press. I've been retired for several years now, but when I was teaching and assigning books of yours as well as individual poems (most often American Primitive or House of Light) I saw over and over how students were made to think by the poems and also moved by them. I would keep assigning your poetry, and continue to recommend it, because it is accessible as well as rich and provocative. I found it a good antidote to the poetry anxiety I found in many students.

With warm regards,
John Knott
Professor Emeritus of English
University of Michigan

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Your Voice

Dear Mary,
It was your voice. Since that reading at the Provincetown library when River Styx, Ohio was your new book.

Nevermind that you saved me once from near-certain hypothermia in the Beech Forest when I had fallen through the ice. It is your voice, holding firm through book after book, that has remained with  me, has continued to shape the world, shimmering always, bright in the eye of God.

With abiding thanks and deep appreciation,
Dan Lewis

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Recognizing My Own Voice

Dear Mary,

On October 1, 2002, my husband and I left for work.  I prayed a gratitude prayer, and a half mile from my house, returned home to execute a plan that had been in the making for a year.  It was a true Mission Impossible escape from two decades of verbal and emotional abuse.  Friends and the movers arrived, and within two hours, we packed my things and took off for the apartment I had secretly rented.  He was incensed, of course, and I was little more than a shell that had once sheltered a soul.  I unpacked and tried to see past "tomorrow."  My husband called my family to ask them to pray for me, for surely I had lost my mind.

I read and printed "The Journey" and found a photograph showing the sun shining in the distance, the photographer in the darkness of the trees.  Thank you for letting me know that "they" would have terrible melancholy, that the night would be wild, and that the sun would shine in a future in which I would recognize my own voice.  Your poem helped me save my life.  And it was and is a life worth saving.

Sharon Reinbott

Friday, March 9, 2012

As a Lake Watches the Sky

Dear Mary,
I always imagine you waiting for your poems. Walking slowly through your world, patient, alert. Watching the day as a lake watches the sky, poised for the moment when the outside is reflected inside you and the words fall out like rain.
With love and wishes for gentle healing,
Samantha Reynolds

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Hands that Heal All Wounds

Dear Mary,

You helped me find peace. At a point in my life when I was lost in the kinds of maelstroms we get sucked into as humans, a dear friend handed me one of your poems. With "my work here is loving the world," I felt my feet touch solid ground. With every line I read, it was as if another piece of my life's path was being laid out before me by poetry's hands, the hands that heal all wounds. I found through this poem my calling as an environmentalist and environmental science major. If I have a philosophy, I found it in your words. Now, whenever the currents of unrest threaten to sweep me up again, I remind myself to keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. You gave me peace, you showed me wisdom, and you gave my heart a song to sing. Thank you.

Suzanne Hart

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Wish To Be a Hummingbird

Dear Mary,

Your poetry is the liturgy of my life.  I took myself on "The Journey" and then read it to every woman student I have ever had.  At Advent, I read "Making the House Ready for the Lord" to remind myself that a glorious hilarity is what I am waiting for.  At this moment "Lilies" graces my refrigerator door at eye level because I have fought and won, for the moment, the struggle with cancer and I wish to be hummingbird, cattle, and lily until the day I can't rise anymore.

Thank you for the gift of your words and the courage to name your "Thirst" so that I could find mine.   Be well.

Colleen Rain Austin

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Have Warmed My Soul to the Words You Write

Dear Mary,

I look forward to the comments you shall certainly make on your natural journey.  I have warmed my soul to the words you write as I, too, was born to observe the natural world at close range.  Thank you for being. 

Love to you, 
Diana Keyes

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thank you for persisting

Dear Mary,
Once in a while, we encounter work that affects us so profoundly that it becomes part of our selves, the rhythms of blood and breath.  That happened when I read your collected works, followed by individual collections.  "In Blackwater Woods," for example, startles me every time I read it, as if I encountered it for the first time.  That poem speaks so deeply to me of what it means to risk love, which is, God knows, the riskiest undertaking of all.  I quote long sections of "Summer Day" to my students, type lines from it on my desk, pin them to my wall.  I use your work to inspire myself to write; I use your work to inspire myself and others to live deeply and consciously and fully. 
Part of being a writer is that sense of sending work out that is never quite what we wanted it to be, never sure if or how it will speak to others, whether it has, in the terrible phrase, been "worth it."  Yours has been a life of profound worth, your work a spending of every talent you possess, and I am only one of many who love you for it.
Thank you for persisting.
Rebecca Baggett