Monday, March 21, 2016

Reads for Writers: Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver Includes Great Writing Advice

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Writers should be perspicacious; poets have to be. The job description requires discernment and perception when choosing which moments to capture as well as the essential words to create true poetry.

          Among the very best is Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, who publishes both poems and prose. I highly recommend her poems “The Summer Day” on page 60 of House of Light; “Wild Geese” on page 14 of Dream Work; and “This World” on page 27 of Why I Wake Early among many, many others. I wrote about her book, Dog Songs: Thirty-five Dog Songs and One Essay, in a post dated 4/28/14.

           From the title, I thought Blue Pastures would be more luminous writings about nature—her favorite topic—and it is, but it’s also her story of becoming a poet and writer.

          These are only a few of my favorite lines and passages:

                    …at my desk…I am deep in the machinery of my wits. (p. 1)

In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about. (p. 5)

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time. (p. 7)

I never met any of my friends, of course, in a usual way—they were strangers, and lived only in their writings. But if they were only shadow-companions, still they were constant, and powerful, and amazing. That is, they said amazing things, and for me it changed the world. (p. 13)

Art: hope, vision, the soul’s need to speak. (p. 49)

Poetry, after all, is not a miracle. It is an effort to formalize (ritualize) individual moments and the transcending effects of these moments into a music that all can use. It is the song of our species. (page 59)

It takes about

seventy hours to drag

a poem into

the light.


…the blank piece of paper, and my own energy…(p. 70)

Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude. (p. 89)

[I have this taped to my computer monitor.]

Each of us brings to the poem, to the moving pen, a world of echoes.

(p. 109)

We react, we imitate, we imagine, we invent. (p. 111)

          While I’ve been reading Mary Oliver’s work for over a decade, I somehow missed Blue Pastures until recently, much to my dismay. Now it’s one of my top recommendations for writers as part of learning to give their creative work power and time, muscle and exactitude.

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