A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
Posted on September 9, 2019
“In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling.”
– Gertrude Stein
The morning is a time of slow contemplation. Well, for Mary Oliver it is. I’ve always struggled with mornings. If there’s a choice, I’ll almost always choose to sleep in. That is, unless, there’s something worth waking up for – the beauty of a sunrise, for example. I could find meaning in that. A thousand meanings, for a thousand mornings.
A Thousand Mornings is the perfect book of poetry for people who hate poetry. I love the form myself, but I know that most people don’t. I didn’t at first. Poetry can be intimidating, and the way it’s taught in schools can be tortuously analytical. People start to believe that poetry isn’t for them. That it is part of some realm reserved for intellectuals. And that is a shame, because I believe that poetry can be healing. Hearing a beautiful poem is like hearing a beautiful song; you can come back to it whenever you need to for comfort or clarity.
Mary Jane Oliver died this past January of lymphoma at the age of 83. Oliver remains hugely popular in the world of American poetry. She is known for her simplistic prose that celebrates the everyday wonders of the natural world. A Thousand Mornings is a small collection of some of her most memorable poems. Poetry need not be full of veiled meanings and highfalutin language. There is beauty in simplicity. Mary Oliver’s poems are easy to read. Her writing is crisp. Her ideas presented plainly. She asks the age old questions of life, and recognizes her smallness in the universe.
The body of A Thousand Mornings is old. While reading, it feels like I can hear Mary’s grandmotherly voice and see her wrinkled hand, pointing at the leaves falling off a tree, slowing me down with her presence. White hair flows out between the pages, extending from them as naturally as a leaf sprouts from a branch. This body is a long time in the making – both a student and teacher of the world.
Each morning that the sun rises is a testament to the truth that time is passing; what can we make of that? The sun will die, and so will we, but right now we are both alive, celebrating the infinity of meaning.