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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 (1986)

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"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"

Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day," House of Light (1990)

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"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 (1992)

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"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 (1992)

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"There is only one question: / how to love this world."

Mary Oliver, "Spring," New and Selected Poems (1992)

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"Something totally unexpected, / like a barking cat."

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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"Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude."

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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"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."

Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures (1995)

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"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 (2004)

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"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 (2004)

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"To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work."

Mary Oliver, "Yes! No!" Owls and Other Fantasies (2006)

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"...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 (2006)

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"A Plan for Living a Life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

Mary Oliver, "Sometimes," Redbird (2008)

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"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

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Mary Oliver, U.S. poet, Pulitzer winner
(1935 - )