Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

April's prescription is a poet who is well known and much loved in the USA, but less so in the UK. Sarah lent me a collection of Mary Oliver's work from the UK poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books

I came across the title poem in 2009 when I joined a group doing The Artist's Way that Sarah co-ordinated. It came up because of this quote which has become a bit of a touchstone for me:
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.
The soft animal of Mary Oliver's body loves to lie quietly in wild places and watch wild things. Because she watches and waits patiently she sees marvels, like a fox playing in a cranberry patch, which she polishes up so that less patient and watchful people can appreciate them too.

Wild Geese includes prose as well as poetry -- I love reading about how other writers work, so it was a joy to find occasional pieces like 'The Swan', which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the poem of the same title (the true nature of the bird made me laugh out loud).

I found I couldn't wait to get back to this book. It moved around the house with me at first, but soon settled in the attic where I could read in peace. I think perhaps I need to follow Oliver's example and spend some time sitting still and watching. This is another book that I am feeling sad about returning -- I'll have to buy some Mary Oliver collections of my own.

Wild Geese (Bloodaxe World Poets) is available from Amazon.

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