In A THOUSAND MORNINGS, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has come to define her life’s work, transporting us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. In these pages, Oliver shares the wonder of dawn, the grace of animals, and the transformative power of attention. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her adored dog, Percy, she is ever patient in her observations and open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments.
Our most precious chronicler of physical landscape, Oliver opens our eyes to the nature within, to its wild and its quiet. With startling clarity, humor, and kindness, A THOUSAND MORNINGS explores the mysteries of our daily experience.
About the Author
Born in a small town in Ohio, MARY OLIVER published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of twenty-eight. Over the course of her long career, she has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Bennington College, where she held the Catherine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. Oliver currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
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Poems from A Thousand Mornings
A THOUSAND MORNINGS
All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.
THE FIRST TIME PERCY CAME BACK
The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
“Percy,” I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. As music
is present yet you can’t touch it.
“Yes, it’s all different,” he said.
“You’re going to be very surprised.”
But I wasn’t thinking of that. I only
wanted to hold him. “Listen,” he said,
“I miss that too.
And now you’ll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won’t be false, and they won’t be true,
but they’ll be real.”
And then, as he used to, he said, “Let’s go!”
And we walked down the beach together.
IN OUR WOODS,
SOMETIMES A RARE MUSIC
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he’s gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.
From A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Copyright 2012 by Mary Oliver. Excerpted with permission of Penguin Group.
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Mary Oliver with Coleman Barks
Mary Oliver’s poetry, with her lyrical connection to the natural world, has firmly established her in the highest realm of American poets. She is renowned for her evocative and precise imagery, which brings nature into clear focus, transforming the everyday world into a place of magic and discovery. Her recent books include Owls and Other Fantasies, Why I Wake Early, and New and Selected Poems, Volume Two. As poet Stanley Kunitz has said, “Mary Oliver’s poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing.” Oliver lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Distributed by Tubemogul.
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