Forty years by Mary Oliver

Today it is Mary Oliver again. Her poetry is really unique and this poem is no different. Every writer will understand and appreciate exactly what she’s talking about.

Let us read it here and then discuss it a bit.


Forty Years by Mary Oliver

For forty years

the sheets of white paper have

passed under my hands and I have tried

to improve their peaceful

emptiness putting down

little curls little shafts

of letters words

little flames leaping

not one page

was less to me than fascinating

discursive full of cadence

its pale nerves hiding

in the curves of the Qs

behind the soldierly Hs

in the webbed feet of the Ws

forty years

and again this morning as always

I am stopped as the world comes back

wet and beautiful I am thinking

that language

is not even a river

is not a tree is not a green field

is not even a black ant traveling

briskly modestly

from day to day from one

golden page to another.


What is the poet trying to convey? How writing for forty years has not diminished the thrill or her thirst for it? How she looks forward every day to filling the emptiness in the white sheets with her thoughts in the fascinating form of words?

Language, she says, is not a river or a tree or a field to flow or grow and stretch from page to page. She even compares it as not being like a black ant, immediately making us think of movement, activity, action. Yet language is all we need to beautifully fill in one golden page after another!

I love the way she makes writing feel like an adventure or a fantasy where peaceful emptiness of golden pages are replaced by the leaping flames of language!


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