Wednesday, March 21, 2007

“A Pretty Song”

It often takes me a while to get through a book because I tend to read a half dozen or so of them at a time. So I’ve been savoring my way through Mary Oliver’s collection of poems, Thirst. I keep returning to these compelling lines that may speak far beyond their already intense surface meaning. Clearly, this is a poem that expresses grief over the loss of a long-time partner. But, bearing in mind Oliver’s mission of “loving the world” (Messenger), as I read these lines I keep considering both to what extent they work for the many kinds of loves of which a life is made over time, and the centrality of love to human existence.

“From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.”

— from Mary Oliver’s A Pretty Song in Thirst


Blogger Sky said... glad to find a new post here. Thank you for sharing these lines. Hope you are well and that your life is moving smoothly.

3/21/2007 10:19 AM  
Blogger zhoen said...

Oh. My.

Thank you.

3/21/2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

This makes me want to read the entire book. So breathtakingly beautiful.

3/21/2007 11:39 AM  
Blogger polona said...

great verses!
thank you for sharing this, mb.

3/21/2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger alan said...

Though it lacks so much of what I feel, all I can say is



3/21/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger leslee said...

That's lovely. Is Thirst her recent collection, or an earlier one?

3/21/2007 4:23 PM  
Blogger MB said...

Sky, hi, things are still very busy, but fine. I hope you are doing well.

zhoen, isn't it?

Robin Andrea, the book takes a bit of a new turn relative to her previous work, delving much more explicitly into spiritual/religious explorations. Very interesting, I should think, regardless of one's own beliefs.

Polona, I'm glad you enjoyed them.

Alan, you've got me curious now about what you were feeling?

Leslee, it was published in 2006, after the death of her partner, so it's relatively recent.

3/21/2007 6:52 PM  
Blogger EATING POETRY said...

I love Mary Oliver! My favorite poem of her is "Journey"

3/21/2007 10:33 PM  
Blogger marlyat2 said...


It would be enjoyable to hear who else you especially like...

And I found your comments on "the list" very interesting!

3/22/2007 5:58 AM  
Blogger Pat Paulk said...

Love it. You know how much I like her work. Thanks!!

3/22/2007 6:40 AM  
Anonymous tongue in cheek said...

I was having MB withdrawals! Glad your back.

3/22/2007 9:17 AM  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

I needed this, mb! Glad I got here.

3/22/2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

i really loved mary oliver's thirst. there were too poems inparticular that wooed me but there names slip my mind. one was something about being among the trees and the other was the last poem of the book. she's my favorite...

3/22/2007 1:18 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

This is such a beautiful expression of what love can feel like. Thanks for sharing Mary Oliver, MB.

3/22/2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous mimi said...

Mary Oliver, my favorite poet...if only the people who most need to hear her words would read her...
thanks (and the photo is stunning as well)

3/22/2007 7:25 PM  
Anonymous marja-leena said...

This is beautiful - thank you!

3/22/2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger firebird said...

This is beautiful--a lot to think about--
and a beautiful photo as well!

3/22/2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger alan said...

Of 30 years of sharing my life with someone far more wonderful than I deserve; of being constantly amazed and falling ever deeper in love each day; of finding a bit of heaven each time we find time for each other...


3/23/2007 12:17 AM  
Blogger Fred Garber said...

Thanks for sharing the poem! I need to go out and get that book. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one reading too many books at once. "Manhattan Noir" is in the bathroom. Patry's " Liar's Diary" is in the livingroom by the big easy chair, "Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter" on the bed stand, "Volcan" is in the car....etc.

3/23/2007 6:51 AM  
Blogger MB said...

e.p., glad you enjoyed, thanks for stopping by.

Marly, there are so many and the list is always growing and shifting focus. That's a good thing — I think! Perhaps worthy of a post some day.

Pat, you are welcome.

Corey, back, but not for long!

Gautami, I'm glad you got here, too! And that you found something you needed.

Michelle, I'm enjoying Thirst, too. It's different from her other writing, seems to explore new territory, or at least explore it overtly.

Pauline, the whole poem is beautiful, but these lines stick, for me.

Mimi, thanks. I wonder what the world would be like if more people read poetry in general?

Marja-Leena, you are welcome.

Firebird, thank you. Fodder for the musing mill.

Alan, that is wonderful. This poem (not just the part I quoted), indeed the collection as a whole, is a loving, grieving tribute to a long and deep partnership. I think you would really enjoy the entirety.

Fred, I'll be taking Liar's Diary with me this week as one of a several companions. Glad you enjoyed!

3/23/2007 12:48 PM  
Blogger moira said...

Oh, wow.

Also, nice to know another polyamorous book reader.

3/23/2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger M. Shahin said...

I have yet to read any of her poetry but I loved those lines you pointed out. Love is very complicated. Beautifully expressed and yet simple at the same time. Thanks for sharing. I'll have to get a book of her poetry.

3/25/2007 12:46 PM  
Blogger TDharma said...

My favorite Mary Oliver:

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 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,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

4/19/2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger MB said...

Moira, yes, I feel less alone now in my polyamorous bibliophilia! ;-)

M. Shahin, you are wise, love is indeed complicated. She is a very fine poet. I think it would be worth your while.

tdharma, you quote a wonderful poem, also one of my favorites.

4/27/2007 9:02 PM  

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