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Likely Stories - A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

LS B2 Mary Oliver

Distinctive collection of poetry by the wonderful Mary Oliver.

I recently lost my poetic soulmate in Mary Oliver. I have scads of her short books of sublime poetry. Mary was born in a small town in Ohio, and she published her first book of poetry in nineteen-sixty-three at the age of twenty-eight. She won too many awards to list. I miss her poetic voice every day.

Here is a sample of her work. I Go Down to the Shore.  “I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves are rolling in or moving out, and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall—what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice: Excuse me, I have work to do” (1).

Foolishness? No, It’s Not. “Sometimes I spend all day trying to count the leaves on a single tree. To do this I have to climb branch by branch and write down the numbers in a little book. So I suppose, from the point of view, it’s reasonable that my friends say: what foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds again. But it’s not. Of course, I have to give up, but by then I’m half-crazy with the wonder of it—the abundance of the leaves, the quietness of the branches, the hopelessness of my effort. And I am in that delicious and important place, roaring with laughter, full of earth-praise” (5).

If I Were. “There are lots of ways to dance and to spin, sometimes it just starts my feet first then my entire body. I am spinning no one can see it but it is happening. I am so glad to be alive, I am so glad to be loving and loved. Even if I were close to the finish, I would be here to take a stand, bereft of such astonishments, but for them. If I were a Sufi for sure I would be one of the spinning kind” (11).

Poem of the One World. “This morning the beautiful white heron was floating along above the water and then into the sky of this the one world we all belong to where everything sooner or later is a part of everything else which thought made me feel for a little while quite beautiful myself” (15).

Was it Necessary to do it?  “I tell you that ant is very alive! Look at how he fusses at being stepped on” (47).

And the title piece, A Thousand Mornings. ‘’All night my heart makes its way however it can over the rough ground of uncertainties, but only until night meets and then is overwhelmed by morning, the light deepening, the wind easing and just waiting, as I too wait (and when have I ever been disappointed?) for the red bird to sing” (35).

Another collection by Mary Oliver, whose attention to nature, brings life and magic to A Thousand Mornings.  8 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim Mc Keown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.