Book recommended: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Mary Oliver; 2017)

If you are looking for a book of poetry to enjoy, please pick up a copy of Mary Oliver’s Devotions. Let me restate that. Even if you aren’t looking for a book of poetry to enjoy, please pick up a copy of Mary Oliver’s Devotions. Accessible, life-giving, meditative, in turns occasionally witty and wonderfully serious, Oliver lives in creation with her eyes and ears open and we are the beneficiaries. Her love of nature and ability to spot hints of transcendence in the ordinary things that surround her makes me feel that I hardly see anything much at all.

A Lesson from James Wright

If James Wright
could put in his book of poems
a blank page

dedicated to “the Horse David
Who Ate One of My Poems,” I am ready
to follow him along 

the sweet path he cut
through the dryness
and suggest you sit now 

very quietly
in some lovely wild place, and listen
to the silence. 

And I say that this, too,
is a poem. [p. 74]

Our copy of Devotions was a gift from a good friend, Jen Asp, on my 75th birthday. “I hope these poems,” she wrote in the front cover, “offer beauty and food for thought.” Oh, good friend, they have done that far beyond my expectations.

Each morning, Margie and I sit and talk for awhile after awakening. During the winter months we watch the sun rise, and all year long look for songbirds to arrive at our feeders, wild turkeys to walk in solemn lines through our yard, rabbits to cavort, and deer to wander silently in the woods behind our house. We hear Margie’s hens chat to one another, and we think, call for Margie to visit them. With a treat, naturally. And each morning, Margie reads aloud two of Mary Oliver’s poems from Devotions. It is, like the title of her collection suggests, a lovely morning devotion. We relate to some poems more than others, of course (her short series on her dogs left me moved since I tend to dislike the creatures), and often the reading sparks conversation. But most mornings we find ourselves… well, the proper word is edified, though that can sound sentimentally pious. I don’t mean it that way. I mean it positively and gratefully, as in enlightened and uplifted. Judging from her lovely poetry, Mary Oliver believes the earth is the Lord’s, and celebrates the fact in finely crafted language that draws us in and helps us worship.

P.S. You can find another of Oliver’s poems in my sermon, “Flourishing in Waiting,” posted on our website.


Photo credit: PR photo found on the internet.