Saturday, March 2, 2013

Poetry in Motion

Blog friend Teresa Evangeline often posts poetry that really moves me. Through her I learned of Mary Oliver, whose luminous poems tend to delve beneath the surface of the natural world and find the beauty not only in appearance but in function.

A few weeks ago I bought a book of Mary Oliver poems for myself, a small collection published in 2004 called "Why I Wake Early." The title is for me either ironic or aspirational, since I have never been an early riser. Still, I recognize that nature is often at its best in early morning, and that I am looking for new sources of positive energy, so this book seemed promising.

The poems are lovely, and I will post the first one, which has given the book its title. If you decide to skip over the poem (gasp!), there is more to my story after the poem.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety--

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light--
good morning, good morning, good morniing.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

--Mary Oliver

I decided to read this poem to 4-year-old granddaughter ViMae, just to see how she would respond. She liked the idea of saying hello to the sun, and she agreed that it reaches out and warms you whether you are cheerful or, as the poem says, crotchety.

At that moment, before I could get back to reading, she took a flight of fancy, pulling the sun into her own life. It was just a couple of sentences, but it struck me, instantly, as a vibrant response to this poem I was sharing with her. She didn't really mean it as a poem; she told me later it was a real plan and she's really going to do it (she's also really going to have a pet dragon). But she agreed that I could write down what she had said and share it on my blog. She helped choose the photo and fix the layout, and I hit "publish." You can read it here.

But I left out the context. I loved the fact that ViMae responded to a poem by imagining an action, and even planning for a soft landing. I'm glad I wrote it down. As I continue to read and reread these poems, I'm going to be less satisfied with a cerebral response. I'm going to set my imagination to the task of bringing the poem to my life.

You can learn a lot from children.


Jeanie said...

It is interesting that ViMae's response to the poem and her own poem have led you to seek your own more active response. Seeing things through the eyes of a child is truly a learning and growing experience.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Nancy, This is wonderful, a child inspired to have these thoughts... I remember when my youngest son began to write these poetic ideas down... simply magical. How blessed Vimae is to be in your care...

Thank you.... :)

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Teresa...And thank you!

stephen Hayes said...

Children are amazing, and we can all learn from them.

DJan said...

When I retired from my job and left Colorado, a friend gave me a slim volume of Mary Oliver's poems, and ever since I have realized her power, the wonderfulness of her world view. And then to have Teresa give me so much more of her, it has been a joyous journey. Thank you for this one, and for your fine posts. :-)

Grandmother Mary said...

Your granddaughter's response to May Oliver's poem is why children need to be exposed to poetry. As do we. Bless you for being inspired by this remarkable poet and sharing her with your grand. You're a good grandmother. Sharing with us helps us all be better grandmothers. said...

This is why I love working with children... they see things from a unique perspective that helps me keep my own life in perspective.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I think you made a memory together..a very sweet one:)

The Broad said...

It is such a good thing to expose a child to poetry... I still remember the poems I learned as a child -- and that was well over 60 years ago! The value of this for your grand-daughter is so obvious, isn't it?

Peaceful Warrior said...

Hi :-) Sorry to have been away for so long. Reading your posts is a comfortable warmth to my soul. ViMae is a great up and coming poet. Well done you for including her in your own appreciation of poetry. I fear we all can all forget from time to time just how much we can learn from them. They haven't yet buried their creativity under the pressure of sameness.
Loved it. I shall now get some of Mary Olivers work to read.
BTW, I also have some poetry blogs if you had time to read any and comment that would be fantastic. Links from top of my cloud cuckoo land blog.
Thank you so much for sharing this post. X

AiringMyLaundry said...

Very sweet. And I agree, you can learn a lot from children.

Pauline Persing said...

I like Mary Oliver's poetry, too. I have her book, New and Selected Poems Volume One. After I read your blog I pulled out my book and started rereading.

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