Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver (born 10 September 1935) is an American poet.


American Primitive (1983)[edit]

In Blackwater Woods[edit]

  • To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

Dream Work (1986)[edit]

Wild Geese[edit]

  • 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.

Robert Schumann[edit]

  • And now I understand something so frightening, and wonderful—how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing through crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar.

House of Light (1990)[edit]

The Ponds[edit]

  • Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled—to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

New and Selected Poems (1992)[edit]

The Summer Day[edit]

  • Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Blue Pastures (1995)[edit]

Of Power and Time[edit]

  • The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

Staying Alive[edit]

  • I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything—other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion—that standing within this otherness—the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books—can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

West Wind (1997)[edit]

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?[edit]

  • Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?

Am I Not Among the Early Risers[edit]

  • What countries, what visitations, what pomp would satisfy me as thoroughly as Blackwater Woods on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?

Winter Hours (1999)[edit]

Sand Dabs, Five[edit]

  • You can have the other words—chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it.

Blue Iris (2004)[edit]


  • But also I say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness.

Why I Wake Early (2004)[edit]


  • Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

New and Selected Poems, Volume 2 (2005)[edit]

When Death Comes[edit]

  • I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

The Poet With His Face in His Hands[edit]

  • You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn't need any more of that sound.

Thirst (2006)[edit]


  • My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness

Red Bird (2008)[edit]


  • Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

So every day[edit]

  • So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.

Evidence (2009)[edit]


  • I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
  • Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

External links[edit]

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