Mary Oliver’s new book Dog Songs is out today. I read a rather lovely article about it, written by Dana Jennings in the New York Times, which featured a short interview with Mary. You can find the article here.
It got me wondering which of Mary’s poems (why is it that so many writers are known by their surnames or full names, yet Mary Oliver always seems like just Mary?!) is my favourite. For me, it’s an easy choice, because this is one of those poems that always calms me, cheers me up and puts everything into perspective, no matter how many times I read it. Here it is:
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.
If anyone else has a favourite Mary Oliver poem, I’d love to hear it. Or if you’ve read the new anthology, what’s your verdict?
[Featured image: Summer, 1964. Photo by Molly Malone Cook, from Our World (Beacon Press, 2007).]