April 2, 2011

Poet for April 2, 2011 - Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, through her luminous poetry, has given me many hours of joy - celebrating the beauty around us -- from the slightest of things like the wind to the leaves of trees in the woods to animals and birds to even stones! She is our “indefatigable guide to the natural world,” as Maxine Kumin once said. In this very lovely poem, she drew me in with her lovely metaphors: the white blossoms, the commotion of silk and linen, the waterfall knifing down black ledges, ... and more! And wow at the Rilke inspired ending! ("You must change your life" - Rainer Maria Rilke in Archaic Torso of Apollo.)

Mary Oliver (Born: September 10, 1935)

What Mary Oliver wrote in an essay about Robert Frost's poems is true of her poetry too! 
"So often it seems Frost is about to float away upon a lilting cadence, or barge away in some desperate rage, and then he reins himself in; there is the wondrous restraint, the words that are rich and resonant: dark and deep. And there is also that other restraint: the impending rhyme-match and the line length that must reach, not never overreach, its companions.... Whatever the painful and unresolved interior of the poem, the poet has kept his balance, and we can too. Balance, restraint, steadiness, a controlled and reasonable tongue, and an eye that never fails to see the beauty of things whatever else it sees -- these are victories. Whatever disappointments and woe Frost felt, he rocked him way through them and made the perfect cages of his poems to hold them."

Anyways, onto the poem for today... the title poem from her latest collection of poems.

The Swan
- Mary Oliver
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

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