Friday, June 26, 2015

Red Bird

Poems by Mary Oliver

It was a surprise to me to discover that I like poetry.  Why is it that I (and maybe you too) was introduced to poems that I had no connection to?  There’s a plethora of fantastic poetry and poets out there are understandable, relatable and inspiring to us ordinary people, or “poetry layman”.
I discovered Mary Oliver when an old friend of mine, a published poet and assistant professor of English, requested favorite poems on Facebook.  I took the plunge and started reading, discovering Mary Oliver’s well-known poem, The Summer Day, from her collection New and Selected Poems (1992).  All nineteen lines resonated with me, but none more than

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Her poems are gems packed into little packages that are perfect for reading a few at a time or all at once.

In Red Bird, Mary Oliver studies the place of each thing in the context of this vast world.  She studies it, not in a scientific way, but more like tasting something new, identifying subtle flavors intertwined.  The collection is a homage to a creator and the myriad of discoveries that can be made through quiet observation.

The poem “Invitation” is a reminder of everyday opportunities.

“Oh do you have time
    to linger
       for just a little while
          out of your busy

   and very important day
     for the goldfinches
        that have gathered
          in a field of thistles…”

 The first poem in this collection is titled Red Bird.  It asks why the red bird comes all winter.  Why does it matter?  Is it because of its bright colors contrasting with the gray and white of winter, or is it something else?  Red Bird revisits in different forms and ideas throughout the linked poetry.  Finally in the last poem, Red Bird Explains Himself, Mary Oliver explains what it’s all about.

Pick up Red Bird or any of Mary Oliver's collections of poetry at one of our libraries.  The latest is Blue Horses: Poems, published in 2014.

Review by Rebekah K.

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