Friday, September 10

Morning ...

Mary Oliver and Percy — photo by Rachel Giese Brown
Today is the birthday of the cherished poetess Mary Oliver (born September 10, 1935). More than a poet, she strikes me as a language of her own, a way of being in this world, a type of Rosetta Stone that can help us see and translate the hieroglyphics nature writes in us and grasp the endless flow of bountiful gifts we receive from her. We need only look and feel and be open to being perpetually amazed. Below I am posting her Morning Poem.

For this birthday banquet, I have teamed her up with Yusef Lateef, the 'gentle giant', and his soulful rendering of his composition Morning. Click on play to listen while reading Morning Poem below.

Enjoy and happy birthday, Mary...

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

      from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver
      © Mary Oliver
I also recommend a New York Times article from July of last year titled "The Land and Words of Mary Oliver, the Bard of Provincetown".

A special added treat in that article is the slideshow of beautiful photos of Mary Oliver's beloved Cape Cod with the audio of Mary reading two of her own poems: At Blackwater Pond and The Sun. What could be finer? I suggest you view the full screen version to luxuriate in the images as you listen to her guide us by the hand into the lake and the setting and rising sun.


  1. thank you thank you .
    I love love Mary Oliver.
    Can't wait to savour the links you so generously provide.
    you do bless , Lorenzo, you do.

  2. The opening percussion of the song Morning truly felt like morning was opening. It is a sweet synchronizing you’ve done with these two “songs”. I’m still listening to the organic beat, so soft and stirring.

    In your trope of language, of her translating the hieroglyphs of nature, a Rosetta Stone, you got it just right, and I feel she would be honored to be thus introduced before any reading. In my celebratory lunch with Inge for MO’s birthday, we marveled that we are privileged to be alive while she is alive. Hers is no dead poets society, nor will it ever be, as her way of being in the world has changed poetry forever. Changed me forever.

    The links are great, I listened and watched the slides, and I'll read the article this weekend.

    Thank you for this party.

  3. Bless Mary Oliver and her vision. She rekindles the sacred, reveals the transcendental in things of transience and beauty. And quietly stuns us into knowing we, as human beings, can be part of all this wonder too. Truly on the same poetic ley line as Emerson, Thoreau, Robert Frost.

    Thanks for this post which reminded me of one of my favourite poets.

  4. You and Ruth have introduced me to a poet I know not. As a lit student, I focused on 19th century and early 20th century British poetry. I also love Pablo Neruda and late mid-late 19th century American poets. My awareness of current poets is limited to the morning read by Garrison Keillor during The Writer's Almanac on NPR stations.

    Love the music. Am listening now.

  5. What a beautiful introduction to Mary Oliver's poem, Lorenzo. She would be especially pleased, as are all of your readers, I'm sure.

    I love the final lines of the poem, the notion that the natural revelations of every morning must be considered "a prayer heard and answered lavishly," whether or not we dare to either pray or be happy.

    Your own words, Lorenzo, always do great service to the art of poetry. You double our pleasure when you generously call our attention to the works of other poets, including Mary Oliver, Ruth, and Julie. Every voice is needed and each adds richness to the music and the meaning.

  6. I love how many of her works are grounded in her childhood memories of Ohio. Happy Birthday, Ms. Oliver!!

  7. oh a wonderful tribute and i loved the vid...i have just recently begun studying the performance of poetry...i enjoyed this much...

  8. Thank you for this marvelous tribute to a poet who (to me) every morning creates the world afresh. Am thoroughly enjoying the music. Will then go check your links. Such a lovely way to celebrate her birthday!

  9. Wonderful, and I just came back from listening to her read those poems with the photos of the Cape. She's just so cool... thanks!

    I seldom get meaningful word verification words,
    the one now is "plato"... finally, it MEANS something, or, at least its a name rather than gobbly gook I tend to mispell!

  10. before i started my blog and then visiting other blogs i was entirely familiar with the music of yusef lateef but not the writing of mary oliver or of you lorenzo! so as i write this in the evening with yusef's music playing i extend my gratitude to expressly include yourself and mary oliver! steven

  11. '...lavishly, every morning...' Oliver has truly put words to what many of us can only feel. Happy Birthday to Mary.

  12. Thanks, Lorenzo, for helping us to share Mary Oliver's birthday, even if she doesn't know it.

    She is, as you say, an extraordinary poet.

  13. beautiful poem and perfect accompaniment.
    thanks for the intro to Mary O

  14. Lorenzo

    You found the most fascinating people to write about. She is a wonderful poet, I see Willow likes her for Mary's roots, are from Ohio, and she is a great poet.

    I also enjoy her poems for they are ground in her exposure to the natural world, and influenced by Emerson and Thoreau. She also spent time in upstate NY , and lived in Providence town, all early (& strong)influences in my life as well.
    the video did not work for me, sigh,,,


  15. Thanks, one and all for your kind and enthusiastic comments. I really enjoyed doing this post and finding and sharing the slideshow of the At Blackwater Pond and The Sun. It is a special treat to hear Mary Oliver reading her own works.

    I think that you, Rober of Solitary Walker , really express this best in your comment above, but which I will enjoying quoting here: “She rekindles the sacred, reveals the transcendental in things of transience and beauty. And quietly stuns us into knowing we, as human beings, can be part of all this wonder too”. So true on every point. She herself seems to be a “a prayer heard and answered lavishly”.

    And George, there is something I found moving in you drawing a link between Mary Oliver, Ruth, Julie and other poets we are blessed with (and there are others that I and you would add), for I do feel there is a continuum there, one I relish being part of, each in our own humble and glorious role.

    I gather that Mary Oliver is new to some, like Steven, California Girl, Niamh, perhaps others. I only started reading her around a year ago myself, so still feel I am just starting to discover her and, perhaps more importantly, her unenunciated but fervently felt and communicated philosphy of being in this world. Steven, as I have mentioned elsewhere, you were the person that first turned me on to Rumi, so if I have had a role in guiding you to Mary Oliver, I feel I have done my part to keep the circle unbroken.

    Ruth, you say her poetry has changed you forever. I have the same reaction and one I feel she would appreciate, for there is a challenging aspect to her poetry and many of her most memorable poems end with blunt questions to the reader like: what will we do with our one wild and precious life? Or as in the end to "The Swan":

    And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
    And have you changed your life?

  16. I just finished reading Oliver's Red Bird a few days ago, nearly on her birthday exactly (but not quite). I sat reading the final pages in the dentist office and was perfectly transported to her world of ponds and foxes, fowl and beast.

    Oliver is my favorite poet, one I cherish and adore more intently as time passes, her wisdom, her upward strivings for joy, despite grit. She renews my heart and spirit with each reading.

    Thank you, Lorenzo, for sharing her with us.

  17. read the article, and listened to her reading...
    I want to be her when I grow up...sigh.

  18. "...It tastes like stones, leaves, fire."

    How many exclamation points can I add? I love Mary Oliver. The poems are breathtaking, and I love the slide show!

    You have created a beautiful tribute to a great poet. Thank you, Lorenzo!

  19. I found you through the WOW blog and am so happy I did. I love this piece on Mary Oliver, and the photograph and music too. Beautiful tribute. Many thanks!


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