Devotions by Mary Oliver

Dear Fellow Readers,

April is National Poetry Month. It seems fitting that to continue our journey through reading genres that we move to Poetry this week.

To be honest, I do not know much about poetry. While I have tried my hand at writing some poetry, I think it has mostly sounded like a copycat of “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue”. And like many, I have trouble interpreting it. I can read it and then I have no idea what I have just read. I always take that as a sign of my lacking rather than the poet’s clarity. So, like many of you, I have shied away from it.

I would like to change that for you.

Mary Oliver was an American poet whose poetry is nature inspired. She always liked to take solitary walks in nature and write about them. I think you will find them clearer. She even has a book of poetry devoted to her dog.

In Devotions, you will find selected poems by Mary Oliver. The book starts with poems from her book Felicity (2005) and it ranges back to her book No Voyage and Other Poems from 1963. There is a sampling of poems from each of her works. Near the beginning of the book there is the following poem:

The World I Live In

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wilder than that. And anyway,

             what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

                                                               twice I have seen. I’ll just

                                                                              tell you this:

                  only if there are angels in your head will you

         ever, possibly, see one.

I found that reading this poetry book a little at a time each morning has brought a smile and a good start to my day. I think it might just make, perhaps not a poetry lover, but an occasional poetry reader out of you. The book is available in both hardback and paperback. I am sure it is at your local library also.

My copy with flags and postits

Do you go through and mark passages or in this case poems that mean something to you while you read? I do. (Yes, only if I own the book.) I find that I have marked many in this book and I think that when I re-read the book, there will probably be more markers. I think poetry is one of those mediums that a can hit you differently at different times. While this book was given to me as a gift, I think it is one of those books that I would have read and then gone out and bought a copy of the book so that I can mark passages that I love.

I urge you to take a shot at poetry this month. You can try a new poet or go back and read an old favorite from your childhood. How about Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse or look at an anthology like Good Poems by Garrison Keillor? Amanda Gorman’s new book of poetry was released this month, The Hill We Climb. If you are younger than I am, you might want to harken back to the silly, fun, childhood poems by Jack Prelutsky. (Something Big Has Been Here, Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face, are two of his 45 books of poetry for children)

There are just so many wonderful choices.

Since I wrote this piece, I have seen so many other interesting poetry articles. The New York Times Book section has “5 Poets to Help You Love Poetry” – Also, I think suggested by the New York Times also is the book Poetry RX which was written by a doctor about poetry. He goes through and describes the poem and what the poet is trying to tell you. You can check it out at

Thank you for reading!

P.S. I would feel terrible if I also didn’t suggest my friends, poetry books available from Amazon. Gone Missing: Someday We’ll Meet Again and Still Life of Loved and Lost are two books by Linda Hatton. And there is Safe Among the Roses by J. Lynn Sheridan. The books are short lovely books of poetry that I recommend.

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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2 Responses to Devotions by Mary Oliver

  1. Julia Tomiak says:

    I am so late, but I saved the email with your post announcement in it because I’m very interested in Mary Oliver’s writing and I dearly wanted to read this review. You did not disappoint. Thank you for sharing this lovely book of poetry. I like to mark passages and pages too! (My daughter hates it!), and I look forward to purchasing, reading, and marking up this book! Thanks Carol!

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