Evening Poetry, August 12

Water

by Mary Oliver

What is the vitality and necessity

of clean water?

Ask the man who is ill, who is lifting

his lips to the cup.

Ask the forest.

You can find this poem in the collection Evidence.

Evening Poetry, August 9

Deep Summer

by Mary Oliver

The mockingbird

opens his throat

among the thorns

for his own reasons

but doesn’t mind

if we pause

to listen

and learn something

for ourselves;

he doesn’t stop,

he nods

his gray head

with the frightfully bright eyes,

he flirts

his supple tail,

he says:

listen, if you would listen.

There’s no end

to good talk,

to passion songs,

to the melodies

that say

this branch,

this tree is mine,

to the wholesome

happiness

of being alive

on a patch

of this green earth

in the deep

pleasure of summer.

What a bird!

Your clocks, he says plainly,

which are always ticking,

do not have to be listened to.

The spirit of his every word.

You can find this poem in the collection Evidence by Mary Oliver.

Evening Poetry, July 10

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
this grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else 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?

You can find this poem in Devotions.

Poetry is for YOU (plus, a GIVEAWAY!)

I know plenty of people who are bookworms but not poetry lovers. Maybe they were forced to read poetry written in archaic language when they were in high school and then asked to write a dreaded analysis. That kills it for so many people!

Or maybe they just think poetry is full of flowery language that they can’t understand or relate to. No one wants to feel stupid, so poetry gets shelved along with old yearbooks. Let me just say, this is not the point of poetry at all! It’s not meant to be only for those “brainy, heady types”. Poetry is for everyone!

For me, poetry is a breath of fresh air. It’s a way to connect emotion, intuition, and mystery with words. It’s fluid and freeing and touches me deeply in a way that prose cannot.

For those of you whose interest in poetry has been blighted by education’s withering hand, I entreat you to try this: Go to your local library or bookstore. The children’s poetry is often an easy, accessible entry point. Pick up a book of poetry and open it. If one poem doesn’t appeal to you, turn a few pages and try another one. If that particular poet doesn’t appeal to you, set that book down and reach for something else. If you feel brave, find the grown-up poetry section and repeat.

I promise: there is poetry for you, for where you are at right now, and for the kind of language your heart speaks. You don’t have to decipher the meaning, write an analysis or attempt to understand every line. You just have to listen with your heart and see if the poet is speaking to you.

If you’re brand new to poetry, head to The Poetry Foundation’s website to read more poetry than you can imagine. Here are a few poets you might want to start with:

Shel Silverstein

Mary Oliver

Jack Prelutsky

Maya Angelou

Ogden Nash

Wendell Berry

OK, about the giveaway! **U.S. Residents ONLY** I am giving away a brand new copy of Plough Publishing’s poetry book The Heart’s Necessities to one reader. Read my review here. To enter: 1. Subscribe to this blog. 2. Follow me on Instagram. I will choose one reader at random on Friday May 31st. Good luck, readers!

Evening Poetry, May 10

Homage (for Mary Oliver)

by David Whyte

So simple

so clear,

so here.

Like a cat

pawing

the air

or the whip

crack

sound

of a dog

snapping

at a fly.

Always

toward

the end,

the way

we are never

quite

prepared

to find

the beautiful

sense

of hidden

pleasurable

and complete

surprise

in the poem

until

reading

the

very

last line,

but which

is

the one

you

remember

and

that stays

with you

day after day

when you do.

You can find this poem and more in David Whyte’s collection The Bell and the Blackbird.

Evening Poetry, April 30

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the praises and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

This poem can be found in the collection Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, April 29

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

Milkweed

the milkweed now with their many pods are standing

like a country of dry women.

The wind lifts their flat leaves and drops them.

This is not kind, but they retain a certain crisp glamour;

moreover, it’s easy to believe

each one was once young and delicate, also

frightened; also capable

of a certain amount of rough joy.

I wish you would walk with me out into the world.

I wish you could see what has to happen, how

each one crackles like a blessing

over its thin children as they rush away.

This poem can be found in the collection Dream Work.