Thinking about Mary Oliver

Like so many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary Oliver since her recent death. Remembering how important and influential she has been to me both in terms of the craft of poetry itself and its necessary basis in a grounded perception of the world. Her work has achieved what I think the best of poetry can only sometimes do – to make us, the readers, sit up and take greater note of the extra-ordinariness of life which is embedded within the fabric of the everyday, to take ownership of the ‘one wild and precious life’ which we have, perhaps even to become better people.

A couple of poems, and lines from poems, have been coming back to mind. In particular, ‘Work,’ from White Pine (1994), for me, expresses so simply and yet effectively this balance between being in the world, open to seeing a pond, ‘catching the rain/on its broad back,’ and the ethical labour of poetry, what it might craft with ‘the linen of words/and the pins of punctuation.’

Have a listen: ‘Work,’ by Mary Oliver

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