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#Mary Oliver

Title: Blue Horses
Author: Mary Oliver
First published: 2014
Dates read: 1.08.2019
Category: first-time read, own book, poetry
Rating: 3/5
The book in five words or less: I probably expected too much

My thoughts:

Mary Oliver is not only a Pulitzer Prize winning poet but has also turned into a bit of a staple supplier of quotations for aesthetic nature photography posts on Instagram and other online platforms. I can’t remember whether that’s actually where I came across her first; somehow, I’ve always been low-level aware of her work but never actually read any of her prose or poetry. When I came across Blue Horses, her twelfth collection, during my trip to the UK in May, I decided to finally take the plunge. 

Mary Oliver is well-known for her clear style and her careful observations of the natural world around her, both aspects of her writing that I could observe and appreciate in Blue Horses. There are true gems in Oliver’s writing, and I loved a number of poems deeply for their beautiful turns of phrase or the ideas they explore. However, the collection as a whole felt a bit uneven and did not always manage to find the right balance between simple language and deep thoughts.

Oliver’s style, while usually clear and observant, felt almost simplistic on occasion, and I’m not sure whether that was always on purpose. I felt similarly about the ideas the poems explored; they were often poignant but turned bland and superficial on more than one occasion, even despite Oliver’s minute observations. Maybe that was my fault as a reader – after all, I kept trying to find a connection between the poems’ form and arrangement and their content that probably wasn’t meant to be there to begin with. 

While all this might sound quite negative, my reading experience was by no means as dire as it seems. I did like quite a number of the poems collected in Blue Horses (see the list of favourites below), and since some of them get better on the second or third reading, I’m pretty sure I’ll come back to this collection at some future time. In the end, I believe I just wanted more – more nature observations, more deep thoughts, more true revelations. I hope that I will find those in Oliver’s earlier works, which I still plan on picking up eventually. Right now, I’m just assuming that Blue Horses wasn’t her strongest collection and that I’ll find more of the true gems I’m looking for in her other work.

Favourite poems: I Don’t Want to be Demure or Respectable, No Matter What, Good Morning, If I Wanted a Boat, Such Silence, Watering the Stones, On Meditating, Sort of, To be Human is to Sing Your Own Song, Forgive Me, Do Stones Feel, I’m Not the River, The Oak Tree Loves Patience

Probably my favourite line out of all the poems:
It must be a great disappointment
to God if we are not dazzled at least ten
times a day

Read if you like: nature writing, poetry that makes sense, the connection between the natural and the spiritual, meditations on being, and perhaps Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

16 notes · See All

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen. 

D.H. Lawrence

I think this is the prettiest world - so long as you don’t mind a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have a little splash of happiness?

Mary Oliver

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The Ponds by Mary Oliver

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.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe imperfections are nothing–
that the light is everything–that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

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I don’t want to be demure or respectable.
I was that way, asleep, for years.
That way, you forget too many important things.
How the little stones, even if you can’t hear them, are singing.
How the river can’t wait to get to the ocean and the sky, it’s been there before.
What traveling is that! 
It is such a joy to imagine such distances.
I could skip sleep for the next hundred years.
There is a fire in the lashes of my eyes.
It doesn’t matter where I am, it could be a small room.
The glimmer of gold Böhme saw on the kitchen pot was missed by everyone else in the house.

Maybe the fire in my lashes is a reflection of that.
Why do I have so many thoughts, they are driving me crazy.
Why am I going anywhere, instead of somewhere?
Listen to me or not, it hardly matters.
I’m not trying to be wise, that would be foolish. 
I’m just chattering.

2 notes · See All

And Bjork said, “You’ll be given love. You’ll be taken care of. You’ll be given love. You have to trust it—Maybe not from the sources you have poured yours, Maybe not from the directions you’ve been staring at. Twist your head around. It’s all around you.”

And then Joanna Newsom said, “I believe love will always surround you, brave as a bear with a heart rare and true.

And then, Mary Oliver was like, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting, announcing your place in the family of things.”

67 notes · See All
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