RIP

Poems of Gladness

Thanks to Catherine Pierce for the shout-out (to my Twitter!—a recent thread on happy poems) in this candid, moving piece, “On Mary Oliver and Resisting Poems of Gladness,” over on The Millions.

I, too, have been reflecting on my past reluctance to openly celebrate Oliver’s work, to recommend her poems to students, or especially to colleagues. I regret not speaking more often about what Oliver’s work means to me, while she was still alive. I’m determined, now, not to shy away from my enthusiasm, her gorgeous contribution.

Read Pierce’s entire essay here.

Mary Oliver

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.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

—Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese”

It’s been a stressful, difficult week, and to learn of Mary Oliver’s passing is so crushing. Hers were among the first poetry books I found as a high schooler, wandering the local library, starting to seek out poems on my own. Out of need. Today, I need these words of hers again.

Grateful also to Brandon Taylor for a beautiful essay on why this poem matters, “How Mary Oliver Helped Me to Breathe Again.”

& I’m thinking of, I’m breathing in, I’m saying out loud this line of Oliver’s (from “Don’t Hesitate”), as well:

Joy is not made to be a crumb.