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Mary Oliver quotes (showing 1-30 of 249)

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Mary Oliver
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver
“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver
“Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
Mary Oliver
“to live in this world

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1
“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
Mary Oliver
“When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Mary Oliver
tags: life
“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
Mary Oliver
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
Mary Oliver
“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields...Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”
Mary Oliver
“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
“I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.”
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2
tags: lead
“Tell me,
what is it you plan to do
with your one
wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver
“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it. ”
Mary Oliver
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
Mary Oliver
“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.”
Mary Oliver
The Poet With His Face In His Hands

You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need anymore of that sound.

So if you’re going to do it and can’t
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t
hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.”
Mary Oliver
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
Mary Oliver
“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”
Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
Mary Oliver
“...there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
Mary Oliver
“Love yourself. Then forget it.
Then, love the world.”
Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
“I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.”
Mary Oliver
“It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.”
Mary Oliver
“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
The Uses Of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver, Thirst
“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion - that standing within this otherness - the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”
Mary Oliver

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