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Mary Oliver

  • ... if the doors of my heart / ever close, I am as good as dead.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Landscape," Dream Work ()
  • Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "The Summer Day," House of Light ()
  • When it's over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "When Death Comes," New and Selected Poems ()
  • When it's over I don't want to wonder / if I have made of my life something particular, and real. / I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, / or full of argument. / I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "When Death Comes," New and Selected Poems ()
  • There is only one question: / how to love this world.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Spring," New and Selected Poems ()
  • Something totally unexpected, / like a barking cat.

  • Everybody has to have their little tooth of power. Everybody wants to be able to bite.

  • After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.

  • The three ingredients of poetry: the mystery of the universe, spiritual curiosity, the energy of language.

  • Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.

  • No poem is about one of us, or some of us, but is about all of us. It is part of a long document about the species. Every poem is about my life but also it is about your life, and a hundred thousand lives to come. That one person wrote it is not nearly so important or so interesting as that it pertains to us all.

  • What does it mean... that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring the world? What is the life that I should live?

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Long Life and Other Essays," Da Capo ()
  • Along with the differences that abide in each of us, there is also in each of us a maverick, the darling stubborn one who won't listen, who insists, who chooses preference or the spirited guess over yardsticks or even history. I suspect this maverick is somewhat what the soul is, or at least that the soul lives close by and companionably with its agitating and inquiring force.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Long Life and Other Essays," Da Capo ()
  • To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Yes! No!" Owls and Other Fantasies ()
  • ...when I speak to the fox, / the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, / know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, / as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Making the House Ready for the Lord," Thirst ()
  • A Plan for Living a Life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Sometimes," Redbird ()
  • In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love and the ability to question. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.

    • Mary Oliver
  • I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "Evidence," Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver ()

Mary Oliver, U.S. poet, Pulitzer winner

(1935)