I’ve been reading US Poet Mary Oliver’s wonderful little work of non-fiction A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry (pub. 1994), and have been trying to read more poetry. In particular the poems of Kevin Hart, Frederico Garcia Lorca (a big influence on that great old theologian Leonard Cohen), Bud Osborn (set to music and presented by Lonesome Monsters in a CD titled “Highlights of a Low Life”, David Whyte, and my old favourite Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
So, today I wanted to share a poem by Oliver. Its called “Wild Geese” (with thanks to Maggi Dawn for bringing it to my attention)
“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 despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting– over and over announcing your place in the family of things”
I was first captivated by Oliver via a short essay by Roger Housden in his fantastic little book Ten Poems to Open Your Heart (a book of love); a book I keep coming back to time and time again. His essay works with Oliver’s poem West Wind # 2 Housden introduces his essay with a great quote from Oliver from her Poetry Handbook:
“…Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed…”
And the following from a review by G. Merritt of Ten Poems to Open Your Heart.
“…Roger Housden observes that "suffering is part of how it is on earth; it is an inherent part of the fabric of existence. And if we are lucky, it will break our heart open" (p. xiii). The ten poems Housden has collected here reveal that, even in the midst of life's difficulties, disappointments, and broken dreams, love can bloom. And, as Mary Oliver reflects in the book's opening poem, while there is life without love, it "is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe" (p. 15)…”
And finally, a great couple of quotes to journey with:
Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.”
- Theodore Roethke
"The purpose of a book is to serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us."
- Annie Dillard
More on the importance of poetry tomorrow. Today? I'm out to spend some time with Alan Roxburgh.