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It is my birthday month and so I am in question mode all sorts. I believe questions can be their own genre of literature ask Neruda. There is the story of the Rabbi being asked by his son: What is the meaning of life? Is the soul solid, like iron? Or is it tender and breakable, like the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?

Analysis of Poem "The Journey" by Mary Oliver

I keep looking around me. The face of the moose is as sad as the face of Jesus. The swan opens her white wings slowly. In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness. One question leads to another. Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?

Like the eye of a hummingbird? Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop? Why should I have it, and not the anteater who loves her children? Why should I have it, and not the camel? Come to think of it, what about the maple trees? What about the blue iris?

What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight? What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves? What about the grass? The words stopped me as I shelved. A moment — a dying moment — as still life.

Ms. K's Website: "The Journey" by Mary Oliver: a sample literary analysis

She conjures much with little. Seeing the angels in this poem is another lesson. Skip to content.

The Journey — Mary Oliver One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice— though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. Oliver was in many ways an old-fashioned poet, happily so, and you could read much of her work without being aware that the 20th century, much less the 21st, had transpired. Her essays on literature are about Wordsworth and Whitman, Emerson and Poe. She does cite a poem by Lucille Clifton in A Poetry Handbook but otherwise does not give evidence that she spent much time reading her contemporaries, in general, or women and people of color, in particular.

There is a surprising conservatism about her taste.

She is willing to accept the Western canon for what it is and offers no objection, no addenda to all those white men. Oliver was in many ways an old-fashioned poet, happily so. One might stand under an oak and complain that it does not emit the fragrance of an apple tree or produce the petals of a dogwood. As Oliver herself would put it, we should learn to look with reverence before each made thing for what it is: a reflection of some particular facet of the Maker, even if it is not the facet we desire.

By these lights, we should look at Oliver and her taste in literature as simply what it is—a reflection of her loves. And yet. So the examples they provide matter. I am sure Oliver did not sit down thinking about how she could exclude certain schools of poets or poetry as she prepared these books. Still, an editor might have suggested she cast a wider net as she sought to illuminate the craft of poetry.

But it is the point of not working with other texts, to get thoroughly inside the tent of my own. She is willing to accept the Western canon for what it is and offers no objection. Of course, it was her beloveds, Whitman and Wordsworth, Hopkins and Hawthorne, who helped pitch her tents. James Wright was perhaps the most significant influence from the generation directly preceding hers, not just in his poems but in their long correspondence. I am radiant with happiness because James Wright exists. He wrote her shortly before his death in , praising Twelve Moons, which had just been published.

2 thoughts on “‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver”

Thus Oliver invokes her priestly calling, to preside at table, to break and offer bread. I felt better, telling them about you. They know what pain is, and they knew you, and they would have stopped, too, as I was longing to do, everything, the hunger and the flowing. In a spider under a stairwell and a favorite pond, the flowers along the beach a child intentionally scarred to beg for charity, a cleaning woman in an airport bathroom and a young man with a gift for constructing with lumber but not with language, Oliver sought and saw revelation. It is this quality that gives her work the luster of the eternal.

She has ability to see God in all things, the flowers along the beach, a child intentionally scarred to beg for charity. Some poems we pass through as we would a shop or a station.

Mary Oliver Poetry Analysis

We might marvel at a line or image, be struck by certain sounds, but we move on with the pace of our days. A few poems become houses, and we live in them, sitting in their rooms, staring out their windows, watching the seasons become years. In addition to these, I inhabit, with the humility of a disciple, at least two or three dozen others.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider the orderliness of the world.


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Notice something you have never noticed before, like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb. Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away. Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance. In the glare of your mind, be modest. And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind. This is the dark bread of the poem. This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem. The repetition of the word dark works liturgical and poetic wonder, taking the reader to the cross and allowing suffering to receive its due before assuring us, like the Psalmist, that joy comes in the morning, that we will be nourished, that resurrection is a daily, cyclical, seasonal reality.

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In over two dozen works of poetry, prose and prose poetry, Oliver deployed repetition as a kind of remembrance and to establish an abiding disposition of patient and reverent attention. No disrespect, but WOW -- this essay is all over the map. Did anyone review it before it was published? Really disjointed. This article also appeared in print, under the headline "Facets of the Maker: the life and work of Mary Oliver," in the Spring Literary Review issue. Your source for jobs, books, retreats, and much more.

Jason Myers April 26, Mary Oliver, our devotional poet.