mary oliver live-tweets and why i need poetry

I have been down. I  have been in a funk. I have not wanted to write new material for my blog in the last week. But I have also not wanted to stop my regular postings. I decided I would dig back into my files and find some older writing to share. The majority of my writing is written in prose. Sometimes poetic, sometimes more in essay form, but generally prose. However, I found myself automatically going to the “poetry” file on my computer and finding a couple of poems to share on my blog.

Why poetry? Why did I turn to poetry when I wasn’t feeling my best but I still wanted to engage with my writing and invite others to do the same? Because it is shorter than a long-form piece that nobody has time to get to the end of anyways? Perhaps. But I think there is something that draws us to poetry when our souls are hungering.

Recently Krista Tippett of the On Being Radio Podcast interviewed renowned poet Mary Oliver in Florida. The interview was live-tweeted by an On Being staff member, and some of Mary Oliver’s quotes resonated deeply with why I felt drawn to my poetic work when I wanted to share something but felt my reservoir for new material was running a bit dry. Here are some of my favorite quotes that were tweeted:

“I got saved by poetry and I got saved by the beauty of the world.”

“I believe poetry is convivial. It’s very old, it’s very sacred, a community ritual. When you write a poem it’s for everybody.”

“I have no answers, I have some suggestions. I know a life is more interesting with a spiritual part to it. So I cling to it.”

“People are more apt to remember a poem and feel they own it. They speak it to themselves and it becomes like a prayer.”

When I am down or lost or low I crave the sacred. I crave ritual. I crave the natural world. I crave prayer. I crave community. Many times I don’t have those things set up in place for me. But in composing my blog in the last week, I turned to poetry, and now Mary Oliver has helped me to see why. One final quote from the interview: “Poetry is a pretty lonely pursuit. I used to say that it was talking to myself.” Maybe when I feel lonely I look to poetry. Writing in general can be lonely, so when we seek out other writers in the form of their work, we create a mini-community to guide us along. I like the thought of being part of Mary Oliver’s poetic community. I like that thought very much.

P.S. I encourage you to explore a wonderful interview between Krista Tippett and poet Dr. Elizabeth Alexander discussing why humanity craves poetry, especially during hard times.

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7 thoughts on “mary oliver live-tweets and why i need poetry

  1. I know for me that life is more interesting when it has a spiritual component. I just seem to be getting back into spiritual evolution and it is very fulfilling. I too am trying to build a spiritual community. For me it is an online group because I have not found like minded people where I am. Writing is a lonely act but it makes me feel so alive and so connected to a community of people.
    I am sorry you are struggling. Consider it an evolutionary driver calling for something new to emerge within you.

  2. Thank you for the reminder that although, for me, poetry is often more difficult (or maybe it just takes more attention and energy) to read than prose, I usually am grateful for the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the words.

    1. I too often find poetry requires more effort to read, and yet if you find the poets who really speak to you (for me its often Mary Oliver, Rilke, Rumi….) it might not make sense instantly on an intellectual level but the body/heart/soul/etc respond very quickly to the sentiment. And yes, there is a slowing down that happens as well. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Writing poetry is a very personal pursuit, and can be lonely. I wondered for years if my poetry would ever see the light of day. Thanks to the internet, I can share my poetry with the whole world. What a gift, for me, and hopefully for others.

    1. It certainly can be lonely! These quotes from Mary Oliver were taken from an interview that was just released last week as a podcast: http://www.onbeing.org/program/mary-oliver-listening-to-the-world/7267
      Oliver talks about how poetry is lonely but also communal and very old and ancient, and how poems can be short enough that the reader/listener memorizes them and it becomes part of them. I like this idea, of sharing our poetry and in doing so creating a community, even if we don’t get to see it forming with our own eyes.

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