‘merican Mystic: Mary Oliver (b. 1935)

[A simple definition of a mystic is one who seeks to experience God or the Transcendent.  Many of the greatest mystics have shared some of those experiences through poetry.  This is one a series of posts to share a spiritual poem and several quotations that have to do with some of the great themes of mystical writers and saints.  Mary Oliver and Langston Hughes are just two of what I call ‘merican Mystics.  Mystics, like Mary Oliver and Saint Francis of Assisi, able learn from God in the wonders of creation.     Where possible, I have embedded a video rendition of the featured poem.  Your suggestions about other ‘merican Mystics are most welcome.]

Mary Oliver Pictures, Images and Photos

Song of the Builders

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

from Why I Wake Early (2004)

[LINK: http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html%5D

I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious,
you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.

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.

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.

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight,
that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

[PHOTO by kagay-anon on photobucket.com]

BONUS: a 40 second poem — “Praying”


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Quotations, Songs and Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to ‘merican Mystic: Mary Oliver (b. 1935)

  1. Kelly Rose says:

    Just when you think it’s just pretty poetry she zings you with something like wanting to break your heart. But I think instead of “a needle in ‘the’ haystack of light,” she should have said “a needle in ‘a’ haystack of light.” Haystacks don’t give light? And haystack then becomes the highest quality of light? A haystack? That don’t make sense? But the image of a needle in a haystack feeling the boldness of the light does. It’s that feeling you get after a good laugh she’s trying to define, I think? She messed up the comparison with a pronoun? I’m just saying: )

    Saturday night mass was so beautiful.

  2. Kelly Rose says:

    Oh yeah: Yeah Mystic Monday! : )

  3. Kristen O'Sullivan Harrison says:

    Just read today’s blog. What wonderful words. I am looking forward to spending more time with them in prayer this evening. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Sandra Bush says:

    Thank you for including Mary Oliver, my favorite American poet. She sees the Divine in all things and is a true inspiration.

  5. Kristin Choate says:

    I love her poetry!!! Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of her.

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