Do you have a favorite poet? Like my favorite novelists or favorite musicians, I can never narrow it down to just one, but Mary Oliver ranks high among them. Her words always spur me to live generously, to love more radically, to delight in the simple moments of every day. And isn't that the best kind of writing?
This poem blessed me with solace last week, when I was feeling apologetic and spent and desperate. Which poets and poems do that for you?
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.