Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) did something rare: She made poetry accessible

Maggie Smith in the Washington Post:

“Wild Geese” was trending on Twitter on Thursday, and poetry lovers — not naturalists or ornithologists — were responsible. Mary Oliver, arguably America’s most beloved best-selling poet, had died earlier in the day, at the age of 83. Her poem “Wild Geese,” from her 1986 collection “Dream Work,” was written in the second person, so the poet seems to be speaking directly to us. It ends this way:

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.

As the news of her death spread across the country and around the world, my social media feeds filled with poems, quotes, links to Oliver’s work and personal stories. What struck me was how many people were moved to tears by her death, people who had never met her. Her work touched millions of people deeply, and not only those who consider themselves poets or poetry lovers. Oliver’s work managed to do something rare: It reached people who didn’t particularly like or “get” contemporary poetry.

More here.