If I ever doubted the Boston-area poetry community, they were put to rest as I stood in a line of what seemed like 400 people waiting to get into the art-deco theater. The crowd, made up mostly of women, waited patiently, and I eavesdropped on every conversation I could. Heard lots of banter like,” We must recreate the universe!” and “I’ll wonder if she’ll read her Percy dog poems.”
As it turns out, she did read a few Percy poems, as well as many older ones and some from her new book, Thirst. She read a good 20 poems for about 45 minutes.
Here are some random things that I learned about Mary Oliver:
- Every photo of Mary that I’ve seen is in black and white, so I though she was much older, maybe even frail. In fact, she’s quite the opposite—spry and healthy as a horse.
- Her voice is clear and seasoned, and she likes to talk between poems; though, I wanted to hear more tidbits. I always like to know how poets feel about their works over time. I did get some of that but not as much as I had hoped. Still, when she reads, her voice resonates, like she has lived with the words for a long time.
- Every time Mary finished reading a poem, the audience groaned in affirmation. Also, lots of head nodding.
- Mary made a list of poems to read, and yet she couldn’t seem to locate any of them quickly from book to book. And she veered off the list to read a few new, unpublished poems.
- She has nine poems about her four-year old dog, Percy.
- Someone brought a baby to the reading. As the mother of two kids under four, it’s difficult to expect a child to stay quiet in such a venue. So after a few playful squeals from the back, Mary said, “That’s the best sound in the world, a baby’s voice.”
- When the reading ended, the book signing was held at the Brookline Booksmith bookstore, just down the street from the theater. Somehow I ended up walking alongside of her (didn’t speak with her) and noticed that her escort was a priest! At the very least, he was a man of the cloth. That, somehow, was comforting to see. With the signing held at the bookstore, the line to buy books was outrageously long, so I left in frustration.
- Jumping back to the beginning, the host from Brookline Booksmith quoted and spoke about the first line of Mary’s poem “Messenger.” I thought that would be a great way to end this post for Poetry Thursday.
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
I felt privy to sit back and be astonished by Mary Oliver’s work. Happy Poetry Thursday everyone!