Monday, December 22, 2008

James Wright and Mary Oliver

Continuing a look at James Wright's classic volume The Branch Will Not Break, here is a poem of a revelation in reverse, if you will:

Depressed By A Book Of Bad Poetry, I Walk
--Toward An Unused Pasture And Invite
-----------The Insects to Join Me

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone,
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment, and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.
James Wright

I have spent a good deal of time reading boatloads of Mary Oliver lately. She is the next poet we will be covering in the 3 Poems By discussion group at my place of employment. Though she undoubtedly would have done Wright's poem very differently, the method, the tone, and the sentiment might be remarkably similar. Oliver is all about observation, musing, and revelation (and, occasionally, transcendence).

All of that may be found in the following, though the order is decidedly different. Here is a description by Oliver, complete with grasshopper, of exactly what Wright is doing after being disgusted by that bad poetry:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver



Charles Gramlich said...

You can tell Oliver has watched a grasshopper eat. Great details.

Anonymous said...


just to say thanks for the comment on the texaco star / route 66 piece at basho's road.

also to wish you & yours a splendid holiday season & a great 09.

what you do for short poetry & the written word in general is priceless.

two poems below that pretty much describe the state of the state
of michigan in these cold, lean times...



my neighbor bob uttered this poem as we were shoveling the foot of snow that fell last friday.

his remarks explained the gunshots we heard the night before.

the poem below was published in the english haiku mag presence in 05...




again, thank you don for all you do to showcase the words & voices.

ed markowski
auburn hills, michigan
12 / 22/ 08

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yes, she is spot on ...


I'm sending you a reply via email with a question. Again, thanks for your kind words that lift me up.

That goes for you, too, Charles - I really appreciate your reading and support.