Friday, April 3, 2009

The Journey, a poem by Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver was born in September, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio. As a teenager, she lived briefly in the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, where she helped Millay's family sort through the papers the poet left behind. In the mid-1950s, she attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College, though she didn’t receive a degree from either. Oliver held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College until 2001. She currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

For Oliver, walking is part of the poetic process. She says, “I have a notebook with me all the time, and I begin scribbling a few words. When things are going well, the walk doesn’t get anywhere; I finally just stop and write.”

Oliver has received the Lannan Literary Award for poetry (1998), the National Book Award for Poetry (1992), the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1984) for her collection American Primitive, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1980), and the Shelley Memorial Award (1969/70) of the Poetry Society of America.

She remembers, “As a child, what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other.”

The Journey by Mary Oliver

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.

The Academy of American Poets launched the fourteenth annual National Poetry Month on Wednesday last. This is a thirty-day celebration of poetry in American culture. Throughout April, the organization will initiate and sponsor poetry-sharing programs nationwide.

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