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Wild Geese -- Mary Oliver

Guest poem submitted by Aparna Chennapragada :
(Poem #426) 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 your 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.
-- Mary Oliver
I stumbled upon this poem most unexpectedly and I love the way the poem 'feels'.
Not being into analysing poems, all I can add is I found myself re-discovering
all those little joys in the world around me, that Mary Oliver speaks of in her



Mary Oliver is the author of more than ten volumes of poetry and prose,
including "New and Selected Poems", "American Primitive"(Pulitzer Prize winner
1984), "House of Light", and "Blue Pastures". A longtime resident of
Provincetown, Massachussetts, she is now the Catharine Osgood Foster Professor
at Bennington College, Vermont. (From the cover of her book "New and Selected

[thomas adds]

Is it just me or is there a distinct Native American feel to this poem? Oh, and
while you're answering that question, check out Chief Seattle's Reply to the men
who wanted to buy his land, poem #184, and also the Navajo Night Way
Ceremony, poem #344.

8 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Jennie Jones said...

this poem is excellent the way it can make your mood change from sad to happy

sandi_ordinario said...

The poet starts out by saying in essence that
studied grace or developed character does not
matter. What matters is what is instinctive,
what is elemental in one.

You can try to tell me your despair and though
I will tell you mine also, it does not really
matter. The world does not care about this or
our other experiences. It does not matter how
exciting or how depressing they may be, nature
continues with both inanimate and animate forms
in their natural cyclical occurrences.

She takes the flight of wild geese as the animate
example of cyclical occurrence in nature which
she describes in the last few lines as being
called by the world to be such.

Whoever or whatever you are, the world of nature
does not discriminate but rather lends itself to your
imagination as if instinctively calling you to
"announce" your place in what I might call the
natural romance of things.

A positive poem which calls people to respond to
anything in a natural manner or just as nature


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