One of the first conversations I remember having with my now best friend was about a review she'd written for Time Out of a new poetry book by Mary Oliver. She's a fan of Mary Oliver and much more knowledgable about contemporary American poetry than I am. So, I asked her to share she favorite Mary Oliver poem. Below is her selection:
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
A native of Ohio who has made her home in New England, Mary Oliver is one of our best-known contemporary poets and has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. As a young woman, Oliver also helped organize the papers of another Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, best known for her poem First Fig.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!