It was eight years ago that a friend introduced me to "Wild Geese." I was hooked on the spot and remain an ardent and daily reader of your exquisite, uplifting, and challenging words. I memorize and recite your poems for the sheer joy of it and I begin each day in search of a serious response to your big question: "Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?"
You have opened my eyes to the beauty of the Canadian Prairies, where I live. Your gentle reminders to pay attention, to be astonished, and to feel gratitude have enriched my life beyond any telling of it. At times of sadness, your words bring comfort, when I need a push to wake up, your words do that.
A particular thrill is to commit a favourite poem to memory, with patience and care so that there settles in my mind a perfect copy of a Mary Oliver creation - every word, dash and comma in its place. Just as you intended.
I first learned of you through another luminescent poet, my teacher, Lucille Clifton. She suggested I read some of your poetry. I was a displaced Wisconsinite in New York City and all I could write about were longings for home and the connections I felt to the natural world there. When I first opened "White Pine," I was so happy. Among the bricks and buildings, the sparkling sidewalks and busy streets of my temporary Manhattan landscape, I found comfort. Your poetry has illuminated so many moments in my life. I am grateful for having your company and insight these past 25 years. Connections with friends and students have grown stronger because of the truths you have always bravely spoken. My partner and I also love that your books are always dedicated to Molly Malone Cook. We light candles for you in Madison, Wisconsin and send love and gratitude your way.
You have been for me such a teacher, showing the way in loving our world and paying deep attention to her beauty. My gratitude is huge.
So many favourites! I pick up your slim volumes to read a little daily. Today it is "Messenger"and your shouts of joy to the moth, the wren and the sleepy dug-up clam, "telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever."
Thank you for sharing your enormous heart with us all.
Dear Mary, I discovered you through a New York Times article during a recent summer lost to pneumonia recovery. I fell into your words which captured my love of clouds and water, birds and dogs, God's creation spread before my beloved lake house. Through the years I have written various things, but now in my 78th year, you have given me courage to attempt to put something of my head and heart into verse! This has brought me great joy. I am a retired United Methodist pastor, and I pray for your steady recovery... and for your next book. Patsy Brundige
I was your neighbor, so to speak, for seven months
in Provincetown, as a Fine Arts Work Center Fellow. We never met -- it was made
clear to us that we were not to knock on your door -- but I liked to think of
you as near during those months, and of the spirit of your work as watching
over us, of subtly guiding us toward the better, truer answers.
I was working on a novel, but on the side I was
crafting a series of creative-writing textbooks for middle-school and
high-school students. So much of "A Poetry Handbook" was
indispensable for the creation of the poetry sections of those volumes; pages
24-28, your sound breakdown of "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy
Evening," especially, was so wise and penetrating that it remains in my
mind quite closely even now, a year later. I was doing the series for a small
publishing house, our budget for permissions fees very modest, but I had to
include one of your poems, just so the kids could see what it's all about. I
settled on "In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind." I couldn't
think of a better way for a 15-year-old to get a first taste of what poetry
Thanks for all the impact you have had on so many
Hello from the Philippines. I hope this note finds you in good spirits.
I just want you to know that even here, half a world away, your poems have changed lives. Every pond has a little of Blackwater pond in it now; every bird has in it a wild goose always "announcing my place in the family of things." Meaning, I guess, that you've made me-- us, your readers from here-- that much more aware of what poetry can do. A bit more loving of the mortal. And every time I re-read your work, I learn more about patience, about clear-sightedness, and how truly and simply connected we all are, despite distance and the many different names we call things.
I want to tell you how much your beautiful poetry has touched my life, and my clients. I have a spiritual dance practice for women,"'Dance Our Way Hom"', where a sacred and safe space is created to explore our deeper, more soul-reaching places within for healing and celebration. Your poems have been a part of the inspiration used in these sacred circles of women. Lines like this one from "Wild Geese"- "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves", is especially perfect for this embodied work. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being who you are and sharing your gifts with the world.
Four volumes of your poetry sit on my desk along with a few other writers whose work inspires me and opens up my heart.
I came to know your poetry only in the last few years. I was at a writer's conference in Taos, NM with Natalie Goldberg. I was talking with a fellow writer and she told me about you. She gave me a volume of your poetry to read. I took it to my room and read through most of it that night. It was as though you had known me all my life and your words spoke directly to the deepest part of me.
Two of your poems that impacted me are "The Journey," which I use a quote from on my website home page. Another is "When Death Comes":
"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.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."
Thank you for choosing the simple life that has allowed you the time and inspiration to produce so much beauty. Your poetry will always be beloved. I will always hold you in my heart, your words timeless reminders to live my life to the fullest.
Whenever my mind seems too cluttered, or my health too fragile; when my emotions are over-bursting with passion; when the world is too dark, or the world is too wonderful to exist; all these times I turn to your poetry. No matter what my situation, you and your senses have already taken it in and placed it simply and skillfully in black and white, so that after reading I can breathe and go on anew. You have time and again cut to the heart of what's what and also taken me away from what's what to what really matters. I have become a better observer, perhaps a slightly better writer, by having the good luck to encounter you, a modern day female poet who has dared to say, "it's OK to be who you must be." Thank you, thank you, thank you for the many deep lessons of human and natural life you've shared so openly, so bravely. I wish I was able to do more than cover you with blessings for courage, optimism, patience and grace as you face life's challenges, now and always.
I am a farmer and a lover of nature. It is my salvation. I spend my days, alone mostly, rapt in the clean, harsh beauty found out of doors. I could never describe the swelling I feel in my soul.. the things I hear in the wind... or feel in the soil ... but you can.
You articulate so perfectly the great mystery. Your words are a salve. You comfort me and bring to me the very breath of what I love and fear. You find the beauty in the dark and difficult and in the light that surrounds it.
The first poem I read was Wild Geese and so began the journey.
Thank you, Mary. I am so blessed to have found your words.
Like so many others I have been greatly blessed by your poetry. Nearly twenty years ago I was given New and Selected Poems as a Christmas gift, just three months after my wife of 22 years passed. I came to page 10, "When Death Comes", and read it every day for quite a while, almost as a devotional. Ever since, your poetry has continued to feed and nurture my spirit. A years later, when I fell in love again, and joyfully remarried, my wife and I jointly recited "The Ponds" as a part of our wedding ceremony. I am grateful to you for deeply touching me and so many others.
Along this road of self-compassion your words touch my heart again and again. How many times has this poem found me? I won't begin to count or even recollect them. One impression–enough to start a glimmering tremor, the gentlest ripple beneath the boat to shift its course. Inviting, again and again, to take a seat at the banquet table and truly come home.
Your words, like stars, guide and remind me to bring my voice, fresh each day, into an always sparkling, harsh and beautifully shifting landscape. May my own voice ring as true as yours, brave and authentic, tugging complexity's mask to reveal my own astonishingly simple and forgiving world.
With love and every wish for healing, Susan J. Preston
Because your poems are not available in the German language, I've been studying English for five years now. I live in Switzerland. Sitting in my comfortable chair, the "Learners Dyctionary" on my lap and a volume of your poems - and heaven has been installed. Since I've been doing this, I've made steady progress on learning English and joyfully my soul follows the lines. Eventually bought a flight ticket to America. I want to see the landscape, the ocean, the sky, the trees which inspired you to write those wonderful poems.
Thank you for doing your work
of loving the world, which has deeply encouraged me to do my own work of
loving the world. I send back to you all the healing sounds that have come to
me from your words, both within and beneath the language. I pray for your ease
and that you may be able to stay content and curious with what comes your way.
Mary, know that you are loved.
When I walk out at morning, I see my Kentucky landscape with eyes you helped open. Thanks to you for showing me how to find sand dabs and for teaching the power of incident.
When I read your poems to my students, my students destined to become middle school teachers, I tell them I am giving them the best gift.
“I am giving you Mary Oliver!” I say and I smile. They smile too.
“Here’s a poem,” I might say, “to help your students think about how to ask questions.” Or “here’s a poem about lilies, but what does it say to your teacherly heart?”
Thanks to you I am a better teacher, a more intimate one. Many teachers pass your words on to their students. We all know that your poems are the best gift.
When I sit down to write, to make life decisions, or even to talk with my dog, my words come closer to mattering because of the many ways your words-- both prose and poem-- have helped me to know my own life better.
I'm writing to tell you how much pleasure your poem "Some Herons" has given me. I cannot see a heron now without thinking of blue preachers or Chinese poets. I think your poem amazing: before coming across it I felt that almost everything had already been said about herons, they're such an iconic bird, but your poem is startlingly fresh. Thank you so much for it, and I send you greetings and good wishes for positive improvements in your health from the very ancient walled city of Chester, England, where I live and write.
Your work and your commitment to living fully in this world have inspired me for over thirty years. I first learned of your poetry, when I was visiting a friend, and she read me “Blossom,” from your book American Primitive. Until then, I didn’t know poetry could feel so relevant and be so much a part of contemporary life. Reading your work kindled in me a desire to notice more and more about the world around me, and to do my best to deepen my experience by expressing it in shapely language.
Along the way, I discovered your little volume on craft, A Poetry Handbook, and I have attended several of your readings and workshops. Thank you for the warm welcomes you gave me, my twin brother, Dan, and our guide dogs at these events. They still touch me, like fingers of sunlight reaching down through a canopy of trees.
Dear Mary, I cannot name an artist who has changed my life more than you have. I have kept all of your books by my bedside for a long time, and your words have carried me through all the times in my life.
I remember the day I stumbled upon "The Journey," and that poem changed my life in an instant. You spoke right to me, in a deeply insistent way, and I had to listen, I couldn't possibly turn away from the truth your poem demanded that I face. That very day I quit my painful job and began a new part of my life--with no regrets. Every day I am grateful for the beautiful new life I now lead because your poem, because of your words, which gave me the courage to leap.
Your words spoke to me most profoundly several years ago as I was working on a writing project with cancer victims and their caregivers at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support in Athens, Georgia.
One of the participants read your poem "When Death Comes" and, at that moment, everyone in the room experienced a revelation. Cancer can be "like the hungry bear in autumn," but the important thing is to be a "lion of courage," "a bride married to amazement."
My twin brother Dave and I came with our guide dogs to several of your readings. Thank you for understanding us and our needs: allowing us to make private recordings as our way of rereading your work and, once, instructing the host of a reading to provide Chandler and Rudder with water. "It's just common courtesy," you said.
Thank you for calling to the best in me, in all of us--for not being afraid to write a poetry of love and attention in a time when what's cynical and clever and hip can seduce. Thank you for letting us in on your life with M, that 40‑year conversation. I cried, hearing you read about it, knowing how much I want that kind of life, how fortunate I am to have it, and how hard such love can make me work.
When I lose my footing as a writer, forget to keep my appointments with myself, your words about making friends with a shy person, in answer to a question I asked decades ago, are what call me back to the desk. Thank you.
When I open one more rejection than I think I can handle, I will remember you saying, "Let me keep my mind on my work, which is what matters."
When the fear of life's brevity overtakes me, I have "When Death Comes" as a compass.
Thank you for "To Begin With, The Sweet Grass," especially Part 6, and for "Praying."
Mary, thank you for all this--for living the way you live and for writing it down.
Your writing has moved me closer to a position of spirituality--even religion--than any other writer ever has. Particularly, your synthesis of an awe of nature with spiritual realities brings me closer to the Franciscan theology of the school where I teach art history. But in your more recent work, you've given me hope that I might be able even to reach a truly Christian understanding of the world.
Much reverence for your work, and love & hope for you,
Your poems continue to be a great blessing to me. Your words "leave me like a needle in the haystack of light." I endeavor to spread Mary Oliver blessings around to others by giving your books to friends and posting your poems on my bulletin board.
We all love you, dearest poet, and pray for your speedy recovery. Stan Sprague
I have only recently discovered your poetry and have been so moved by it. You have changed my ideas about reading poetry as your poems are so accessible and meaningful. I have listened to you reading some of your poems via internet and loved that. I have so many favorites! You are in my thoughts as I send wishes for your recovery and many more poems to be written.
I write but am not published. Poetry feeds my soul. I have found inspiration, courage,expression, life, and soothings in your work for many, many years now. I sometimes read your poems to clients during our work together. A number have found "The Journey" a mantra that has kept them going and helped them have courage to come through challenging times. It has been a portal to your work for each person. "When Death Comes" is a particular favourite of my own.