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Mary Oliver

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Upstream: selected essays   (October 2016)

Reading Mary Oliver’s work helps take my mind off the nightmare of the election. The theme of going upstream, further toward the source,  seeking connection with the divine,  draws me in through these exquisite meditations on nature, and on Wordsworth, Emerson, Whitman, and Poe.

“Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the precognition of the spiritual side of the world and….the condition of my own spiritual state.  What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude. ..

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.… we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together.“

Along with glimpses of hope, Oliver also affirms the literary / artistic impulse--

“Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self….This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.”


Edited by phlox

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For Christian hipsters, Mary Oliver is to poetry what Marilynne Robinson is to literature.

He finds no mercy

And he's lost in the crowd

With an armoured heart of metal

He finds he's running out of odd-numbered daisies

From which to pull the petals

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