Blog: World Poetry Day celebrated with Mary Oliver’s poems inspired by nature

Photo source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mary-oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

– verse from the poem Summer Day – Mary Oliver

On the occasion of World Poetry Day celebrated on 21 March, as declared by UNESCO in 1999, “with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard” we will recall several poems by one of the most famous American poets who found inspiration for her poetry in nature.

Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for the poetry collection American Primitive and the National Book Award for Poetry for the collection New and Selected Poems. Her poems are filled with her lifelong habit of solitary walks. Her poems speak of her love for life, which comes from a deep connection and admiration for the nature that surrounds her. The next time you find yourself surrounded by nature, maybe you will recall one of her verses.

As March 21 marks the International Day of Forests, her poem Sleeping in the Forest evokes the richness of forest life, and by reading these verses, apart from wanting to spend the night in the forest, we can understand why it is important to protect forests.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth

remembered me, she

took me back so tenderly, arranging

her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds. I slept

as never before, a stone

on the riverbed, nothing

between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated

light as moths among the branches

of the perfect trees. All night

I heard the small kingdoms breathing

around me, the insects, and the birds

who do their work in the darkness. All night

I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling

with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.

(https://artistic.umn.edu/sleeping-forest-poem-mary-oliver )


The poppies send up their

orange flares; swaying

in the wind, their congregations

are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin

and lacy leaves.

There isn’t a place

in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown

in the indigos of darkness,

but now, for a while,

the roughage

shines like a miracle

as it floats above everything

with its yellow hair.

Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade

from hooking forward—

of course

loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light

is an invitation

to happiness,

and that happiness,

when it’s done right,

is a kind of holiness,

palpable and redemptive.

Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,

I am washed and washed

in the river

of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—

what can you do

about it—

deep, blue night?

(https://readalittlepoetry.com/2012/11/03/poppies-by-mary-oliver/ )

Wild Geese

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.

(https://readalittlepoetry.com/2010/04/28/wild-geese-by-mary-oliver/ )


Mia Vučevac, mag. iur.

Professional Associate at the Department of Environmental Law, Policy and Economics

Oikon d.o.o.
Oikon d.o.o.