Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese"
This week I pulled a book of Mary Oliver's poems from the shelf. The first poem I ran across was her popular " Wild Geese" poem.
I thought to myself -- what a perfect poem for my own "spring migration."
She is a very popular and not avant garde poet. Mary Oliver is American, was born in 1935, and has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She has published at least 20 books of poetry.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
This poem was originally in 1986's Dream Work but I have a 2003 book called Owls and Other Fantasies. In fact, I have two copies of the book.
I thought it would be a great art project to work in tandem with other artist, to create a show, inspired by her poems in this book. But, after corresponding with her publisher, I realized that nothing is simple. There are copyright laws and I would need special permission to use her poems if they were shown in conjunction with the show.
For years, I kept holding on to the extra book, thinking it was still a good idea, but now I have decided to let it go. Take that idea off the list. So, I am going to give away the 2nd copy--- to someone who comes into my studio or maybe to another artist --- as part of celebrating poetry month.