Wednesday, April 12, 2006


When I was initially thinking about the MFA in poetry about a year and a half ago, I met with poet and UA professor Steven Orlen, who asked what modern poets I liked and was reading. When I listed only, for the most part, Mary Oliver and A.R. Ammons, he kind of looked silently down his nose at me, then rose up to find his modern poetry reading list and handed it to me. He told me to read a book a week from those on his list, and others I would discover along the way.

Since then, I have read more poetry than at any other time in my life---bolstered considerly by recommendations from the poet blogging world, as well as online poetry venues in general. Yet still, for all the "new" poets I've "discovered," none speak to me like Mary Oliver and A.R. Ammons. That's not the reason I decided to forego the MFA in poetry (selecting instead the MFA in creative non-fiction), mind you, but poems like this one, even after multiple readings, continue to lift me from this mortal place:


-- Mary Oliver

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

Copyright 1994, The Atlantic Monthly.


Suzanne said...

Beautiful. Thanks for this--I *heart* Mary.

Suzanne said...

& I should add, that I also return to her often--