“What’s wrong with Maybe?” (Mary Oliver’s Felicity)

Mary Oliver - Felicity

I often read poetry. I listen to poetry podcasts, and I buy poetry books. I have many beloved poets, but poetry is strange. For me, a beautiful poem is a piece of writing in which the meaning is beyond your grasp, and the different poets I love write things that are further and closer from my grasp. John Ashbery and Lucy Brock-Broido are further away from my grasp.

Mary Oliver seems closer to me. That is not to say that she writes bad poems, but there is a simplicity in her language that is so beautiful and wise. And it represents, to me, a view of what is necessary for a life.

(All of this feeling has increased the more I know about her as a person. You can listen to her on a podcast here, which I feel like I need to listen to at least once a year, to keep me grounded.)

Mary Oliver’s new poetry collection is mostly about love, but as always it is about our place in the universe and in nature. Reading this book, as with many others, feels like coming home, to a wise older relative – an uncle or aunt, who makes me feel safe and brave, but also makes me question what I am doing.

There are so many beautiful lines that represent this. Here are a few:

From “The World I Live In”:

I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs;
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway.
what’s wrong with Maybe?

The final line of “Whistling Swans”, which is a beautiful poem anyway, is something I’d like to make a motto:

Take from it what you can.

Here is the entirety of “No, I’d Never Been to This Country”:

No, I’d never been to this country
before. No, I didn’t know where the roads
would lead me. No, I didn’t intend to
turn back.

These are lines that have gone onto my homemade collages this winter, and which have bounced around in my head, from “Everything That Was Broken”:

… Every day has something in
it whose name is Forever.

And, I will leave you with these beautiful lines, from “The Gift”:

Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

But I’d like to reiterate that the whole collection is worth buying (or borrowing) and reading.