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[Poetry Friday] Love for the Wild Outdoors and Simple Living in Mary Oliver’s “Devotions”

Mary Oliver's Devotions

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am sharing one of the books that I received this Christmas and which I read all throughout the New Year up until the first two weeks of January. It has become a tradition for me to read Mary Oliver at the beginning of the year. Somehow, her poetry grounds me, and allows me to let go of the year that had been and to welcome the year that is to come. Thank you to Mainely Write for hosting this week.

As we are celebrating different kinds of love until end of March, I find that Devotions is the perfect book for our current reading theme, as it is a love song to the wild outdoors, to life’s simplicity, and the quiet joys to be had in paying close attention to the world around us.

Devotions: The Selected Poems Of Mary Oliver

Poetry By: Mary Oliver
Published by: Penguin Press, 2017
ISBN: 0399563245 (ISBN13: 9780399563249). Book was gifted to me. Book photos taken by me.

It is no secret that we are all huge fans of Mary Oliver here at GatheringBooks, and we have featured most of her poems at one point. Her most recent book, Devotions, however, differs from her other poetry collections, as this one is massive – compiling selections from No Voyage And Other Poems, her very first book of poetry published when she was only 28 years old, up until her most recent one, Felicity, published in 2015.

I would have enjoyed reading a short Author’s Note, in the beginning, that explains why the book is curated the way it is (from the most recent to the earliest one published in 1963). I am certain that weeding out a few titles, while including a few others, must have involved a certain kind of creative process that guided her in highlighting these selected poems. It is clear, however, that each poem speaks of love and devotion, like little meditative prayers that helped me soak in the world around me and regard it differently, through her eyes.

Once again, Mary Oliver’s poetry has found me at the right moment, gripped my soul and squeezed honeydew and autumn leaves and wild geese out of it. Here are a few that moved me deeply. I’ve taken photos of some of the pages and edited them using an iPhone app – with the other poems, I used Typorama.

I am especially taken by her prose poetry. This message about joy not being made to be a crumb and to simply surrender to happiness, silenced me.

The image above is testament to how her poems sound, indeed, like devotions or prayers inviting the reader to be still, and to listen.

Reading Mary Oliver is always a visceral experience for me – it awakens my spirit and moves me to tears, in ways that are inexplicable. This is what beauty does, and yes, devotion.

The poem above also reminds me to sit back and soak in the sun with the full knowledge that all I need is right here, right now.

The two images below should be read as one poem, there is a text limit to Typorama, hence I needed to create two images for this poem entitled Peonies.

I am also at that point where I am seriously considering what is of value, what is meaningful, what should occupy the rest of my life – what is it that would make me want to get up in the morning and look at the world with the same awe and joy that I used to.

And finally, there is this:

Here’s to finding joy in simplicity this coming year, and welcoming it in abundance. May we all find grace in solitude and have the courage to embrace beauty and dance with the sun.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: USA – Mary Oliver is from Florida, USA.
Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

21 comments on “[Poetry Friday] Love for the Wild Outdoors and Simple Living in Mary Oliver’s “Devotions”

  1. Beth & Richard Elliot

    Really appreciate your Gathering Books posts. Thanks for introducing me to many new authors. I am a grandmother and select library books not only for myself but for my busy children and grandchildren who don’t always have time to do it themselves. You always have fresh directions to take us.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “What is that beautiful thing that just happened?” “a silence in which another voice may speak”
    *happy sigh*! Thanks, Myra 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oooh, I got this book for Christmas, too!!!! I am reading it ohhhhhhh, so slowly, because I, too, am simply obsessed with this poet. Thank you for sharing what you’re loving from this volume!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the Mary Oliver bonanza today! Love how you’ve presented the poems with the pics. There is something so cleansing about reading MO. Ugliness seems to just fall away . . . I think I need to follow your lead and read her at the beginning of each year too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Alice Nine

    Oooh … Mary Oliver inspires the soul. Thank you for sharing. I must get my copy of Devotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Isn’t it just the most incredible feeling when a poem seems to reach out and touch your very soul? It’s like the universe is listening, and in a way, it can make you feel so much less alone, a reminder that someone else has had the very same feelings as you, even if you didn’t even consciously know it before. An experience to treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karen Eastlund

    I never get enough for Mary Oliver. Her language is so lush, her devotion so deep. Thank you for sharing this.


  8. What a stunning, moving presentation of poetry. I love your visuals, and your reflection to accompany each poem. And this; ‘Mary Oliver’s poetry has found me at the right moment, gripped my soul and squeezed honeydew and autumn leaves and wild geese out of it.’ Pure poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, a good dose of Mary Oliver was just what I needed tonight. Thank you so much. I feel ever so much lighter than I did when I first started reading, so I’m asking, “What is that beautiful thing/ that just happened?” Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. For me, after a long and busy, but good, day, this is my devotion for the evening, Myra. “Joy is not meant to be a crumb.” How she does it, I’m not sure. Perhaps she told us in “Praying”? I keep reading her book of essays, “Upstream”, most every night as I go to bed. We are blessed to have Mary Oliver’s words. Thanks for this!


  11. Your post is a treasure, Myra. The images you chose are perfect for each of these pairings and enrich Mary Oliver’s wise, inspiring words. Thank you for sharing them!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. “less yourself than part of everything” – yes. That is a lovely way to start each new year – with Mary Oliver!


  13. Dipping into the poems you shared here is like breathing in peace and contentment. Thank you for sharing them.


  14. laurashovan222

    “Joy is not made to be a crumb” speaks to me, Myra. I had to make a copy of that prose poem to keep close by. Thank you for sharing about this book — your connection to Oliver’s work shines through this whole post.


  15. Look, see, take things in, that’s what I hear from Mary Oliver, especially in this collection of her poems.Thanks for sharing her poems from “Devotions” Myra. Your images are lovely to soak in along with her poems, I’ll have to look for this book.


  16. There are few poets who cut to the chase and point you in the right direction like Mary Oliver. How lovely, too, the way you arranged each poem as a visual offering, Myra.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Love Mary Oliver. Ahhh. So many sweet soul moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. These are the words I needed most today: “…this isn’t/a contest but the doorway/into thanks, and a silence in which/another voice may speak.” I also loved learning what treasures your soul holds, Myra—honeydew and autumn leaves and wild geese. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Round Up of My Literary Journey and My Best in Books Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

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