A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

Something about Mary Oliver's latest collection of poems caught my attention when it was first published in October of 2012; maybe the premise of it, the fact that her poetry in A Thousand Mornings revolves around animals and nature, and her joyful interactions with both. Regardless, I saw it again some months ago at the library and started to read it while I lingered in front of its shelf; when I seemed perfectly content to stay there reading the entire collection, I figured it was definitely one to check out.

Not having a particularly in-depth experience of poetry, I appreciated how instantly I was able to connect with Oliver's work. If you're interested in the art of poetry but don’t quite know where to start, I highly recommend A Thousand Mornings. In thirty-six simple and sparkling poems Oliver muses with grace, delight, and a touch of humor on the sort of subjects we all might be inclined to stumble upon in our daily lives. She writes about the transitions of seasons, the unruliness of nature’s beauty, the truth within the simplistic; she writes at length about animals, plenty of birds and some snakes and two heartbreaking, poignant odes to her late dog, Percy; she writes about spring; and, of course, she writes about mornings. I haven't read Oliver's work before, though I know she’s quite revered, and I understand why.

The poems in A Thousand Mornings seem to shed away all the layers of irrelevance in our lives to show us the lasting truth, our connection with the world around us, its naturalness, wildness, and spirit. As she describes herself in one of my favorite poems, "Foolishness? No, It’s Not", this collection itself is also, "in that delicious and important place...full of earth-praise". In "Poem of the One World" she effortlessly touches readers' hearts with the simple seaside observation that merely by being a part of the same world as the beautiful white bird she's watching she herself feels connected to beauty, and she herself feels beautiful. In her poems about her beloved dog, Percy, Oliver reaches perhaps her most personal and touching notes: "The First Time Percy Came Back" which captures the reconnecting of the spirit of the mourner to the spirit of the lost, and "For I Will Consider My Dog Percy", a derivative of Christopher Smart's "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffrey". The simple and smart "I Have Decided" was another favorite, in which she determines to move to the place of silence and blissful connection in the mountains, and her non-physical method of reaching her destination. Her poems on nature, which consist of everything from conversing with foxes to climbing trees, offer such a sweet, childlike nostalgia that the reader is reminded of the lifelong existence of whimsy.

I can't compare A Thousand Mornings to Oliver's previous work (though I'll certainly be going back to read them now), but from my perspective it was an enchanting and delightful introduction to a most beloved, most beautifully-minded and insightful artist. Read it while you're sitting under a canopy outside in the rain and you'll believe in magic.

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