I just found out that the literary world is dismissive of the poet Mary Oliver, whom I love to pieces. I was thinking of the “sun swinging east” during these “days of growing darkness,” quoting “Lines Written During These Days of Growing Darkness.” Feeling as if I had elevated my experience of a bleak day. Feeling a bit smug to be thinking about poetry as I walked home from the train station as opposed to, say, about the wine I was going to drink when I got there. Turns out my poet of choice was deemed “the kind of old-fashioned poet who walks the woods most days, accompanied by dog and notepad,” per a profile in The New Yorker. The profile also tells me she was a Provincetown girl who wrote about the world but stuck close to home. When asked if she might like to travel she said yes, agreeably, then would “go off to my woods, my ponds, my sun-filled harbor, no more than a blue comma on the map of the world but, to me, the emblem of everything.”
And speaking of everything, take this you also-smug New Yorker profile writer: “There is only one question; / how to love this world,” from Oliver’s “Spring.”
I give you “Lines” which I recited, almost by heart, at the Bowery Poetry Project this past summer (a story for another time).
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.