The transcendental poem

Mary OliverThere is a great tradition of poetry that elevates the experience of the natural world to provide a feeling of deep connection to the cycle of life and death. I can think of no better example of this type of poetry than can be found in the early work of Mary Oliver.  Here’s one.  (This poem’s lines are centered on the page in the original, but WordPress won’t do that):

heron risesHeron Rises from the Dark, Summer Pond

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

open
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself—
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.

Mary Oliver

If you like this one, I recommend Vultures, Moles, Ice, Crows, and the probably her most famous (but not my favorite!), Wild Geese.

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8 Responses to The transcendental poem

  1. Simone Treacy-Croft says:

    I like this poem. We are rich in great blue heron around these parts. I never tire of seeing them. There is a rookery in a park near by and when the hatching begins, the screams and cries of those birds, and, oh yeah – the eagles enjoy that section of the park as well and it is a wonderful and sort of Suddenly Last Summer event— in that season of cracking eggs and eagle-eyed adversaries.

  2. Meryl says:

    I’d like to go there with you. I always think that herons cries sound like the creaking of oars on oarlocks.

  3. Meryl says:

    And I want to be part of the “season of cracking eggs and eagle-eyed adversaries.”

    • Simone Treacy-Croft says:

      It, I guess of course, happens in the spring. I’ll read up on it to get the time more nailed down. You should come for a visit.

      • Simone Treacy-Croft says:

        Hey Meryl did you get some e-mails that I sent to you. I had 4 different addresses for you and I just made a wild guess. Let me know.

  4. Larkin says:

    I know this post was years ago, but do you remember what book this poem is in?

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