Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Wild Geese" (Mary Oliver)

"Wild Geese"(Mary Oliver)

You do not have to be good.You do not have to walk on your kneesfor 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 rainare moving across the landscapes,over the prairies 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,call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –over and over announcing your placein the family of things.

"Wild Swans" is perhaps Mary Oliver's best-known poem. Oliver was deeply influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay and briefly lived in Millay’s home, helping Norma Millay organize her sister’s papers. Oliver is notoriously reticent about her private life, but it was during this period that she met her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook. She has her critics: Oliver's poetry has been called "lazy" and "unnecessary" by one pundit, who then comments rather helplessly in the face of the poet's popularity that "Reading Oliver is an exercise in futility, and so is this article, really, because if you're already not a fan of Oliver, I'm not going to set you against her, and if you are a fan, I'm not likely to change your mind." Take that! American Primitive (1983), Oliver's fifth book, won the Pulitzer Prize. Getting Americans to read poetry! -- who knows, it may lead them to the work of Lorine Niedecker. Oliver's most recent collection (2012) is Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

No comments: