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The Big Zeroes

watch us go from zeroes to heroes

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve read a few Mary Oliver poems on lots of blogs and in magazines. This line from Wild Geese:

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

And from The Journey:

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began…

And from The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that those three lines – particularly the last two – were instrumental in the enormous changes I’ve made in my life in the last decade. So obviously I always intended to read more Mary Oliver, but hadn’t got round to it. Until a couple of weeks ago, I bought this collection: Wild Geese.

And I liked it, I did. But the three poems mentioned above are the only ones that spoke to me. (Actually I did find one more that I really love – Peonies.)

Oliver is very much a nature poet and I found that after a while, her wonder at everything (particularly lilies, boy does she love lilies) started to get a bit wearing. Everything is beautiful and moving, but everything reminds her of death. I also may have been misreading it, but it seemed to me that she thinks she’s the only one who has made this connection. More than one poem included lines about how the world would be a better place if everyone understood this and while that may be the case, it’s a bit much to keep saying so, no?

So having read this collection, I don’t think I’ll read anything more. But I know I’ll return to Wild Geese, The Journey and The Summer Day for the rest of my life.


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