It turns out that accessibility in the poems of Mary Oliver can lead to encounters for the argument-weary that are like fire, like ropes, like necessary bread. Uninterested in a purported inviolable boundary between humans and the nonhuman world, between observer and the observed, she practices anthropomorphism without embarrassment or guile.
Lines in any number of poems bear this out. When poets presume to speak for the natural world in such ways, it can indicate ignorance or disrespect, however unwitting, and a denial of the otherness, the singular worth of a goldfinch, moth, or majestic honey locust. From a scientific perspective, speaking for signals loss of objectivity; from an artistic one it can suggest arrogance. My hunch in reading Oliver is that she seeks to avoid precisely this mistake and that she embodies instead what theologian Douglas Christie commends of the contemplative life generally:.
The capacity and willingness to become small, to acknowledge the primacy of the living world, to open oneself completely to the life of the world, and to do so without any aim beyond the simple pleasure of the gesture itself: such unselfconscious simplicity and innocence can become the foundation of a more responsive and reciprocal way of being in the world. Rather, such speech reminds us of the capacity of other beings to be our teachers, holders of knowledge, necessary guides. In Singapore, in the airport, a darkness was ripped from my eyes.
Perhaps because Oliver knows that such a poem may catch her reader off-guard, the speaker quickly, playfully shifts the scene:. A poem should always have birds in it. Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings. Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem. When the woman turned I could not answer her face. Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and neither could win. Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing. She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river. Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird. The river and the kingfisher insist themselves again but only so we might stay fixed on this silent working woman, her features, and her appointed task. The poem concludes:. Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only the light that can shine out of a life.
I mean the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth, the way her smile was only for my sake; I mean the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds. In other poems, Oliver reminds us that sometimes the neighbor we are given to love is our own wounded self. Sexually abused as a child by her father, Oliver conveys the damage inflicted by this violence in a handful of poems. He had simply, he said, forgotten that I existed. It lay on him, that freedom, like an aura. Then I put on my coat, and we got into the car, and he sat back in the awful prison of himself, the old veils covered his eyes, and he did not say another word.
For plainly the giving was an asking, A petition to be welcomed and useful. The poet offers no tidy reconciliation between daughter and father. In just these two brief glimpses it is evident that the poet sees the man—comes to know him in both his cruelty and vulnerability as only time and distance allow.
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And this, too, is a form of neighbor love: seeing and knowing another, not to fix anything or anyone but to regard the other truthfully, to grant all the complications of personhood even when fullness of relationship can never be restored. Lord God, mercy is in your hands, pour me a little. And tenderness too. My need is great. When I first found you I was filled with light, now the darkness grows and it is filled with crooked things, bitter and weak, each one bearing my name. Matthew something. Which lectionary?
Christian Poems - Inspirational Words of Wisdom
I have not forgotten the Way, but, a little, the way to the Way. Wheatley, suffering from a chronic asthma condition and accompanied by Nathaniel, left for London on May 8, More than one-third of her canon is composed of elegies, poems on the deaths of noted persons, friends, or even strangers whose loved ones employed the poet. The poems that best demonstrate her abilities and are most often questioned by detractors are those that employ classical themes as well as techniques.
In addition to classical and neoclassical techniques, Wheatley applied biblical symbolism to evangelize and to comment on slavery. Her love of virgin America as well as her religious fervor is further suggested by the names of those colonial leaders who signed the attestation that appeared in some copies of Poems on Various Subjects to authenticate and support her work: Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts; John Hancock; Andrew Oliver, lieutenant governor; James Bowdoin; and Reverend Mather Byles.
Another fervent Wheatley supporter was Dr.
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Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wheatley died on March 3, Mary Wheatley and her father died in ; Nathaniel, who had married and moved to England, died in Throughout the lean years of the war and the following depression, the assault of these racial realities was more than her sickly body or aesthetic soul could withstand.
A free black, Peters evidently aspired to entrepreneurial and professional greatness. He is purported in various historical records to have called himself Dr. Peters, to have practiced law perhaps as a free-lance advocate for hapless blacks , kept a grocery in Court Street, exchanged trade as a baker and a barber, and applied for a liquor license for a bar.
Poems about truth
Described by Merle A. Like many others who scattered throughout the Northeast to avoid the fighting during the Revolutionary War, the Peterses moved temporarily from Boston to Wilmington, Massachusetts, shortly after their marriage. Merle A. Richmond points out that economic conditions in the colonies during and after the war were harsh, particularly for free blacks, who were unprepared to compete with whites in a stringent job market. During the first six weeks after their return to Boston, Wheatley stayed with one of Mrs.
She was reduced to a condition too loathsome to describe. In a filthy apartment, in an obscure part of the metropolis The woman who had stood honored and respected in the presence of the wise and good She also felt that despite the poor economy, her American audience and certainly her evangelical friends would support a second volume of poetry. Benjamin Franklin, Esq.
As with Poems on Various Subjects , however, the American populace would not support one of its most noted poets. The first American edition of this book was not published until two years after her death. Of the numerous letters she wrote to national and international political and religious leaders, some two dozen notes and letters are extant. As an exhibition of African intelligence, exploitable by members of the enlightenment movement, by evangelical Christians, and by other abolitionists, she was perhaps recognized even more in England and Europe than in America.
Early 20th-century critics of Black American literature were not very kind to Wheatley because of her supposed lack of concern about slavery. Wheatley, however, did have a statement to make about the institution of slavery, and she made it to the most influential segment of 18th-century society—the institutional church. She often spoke in explicit biblical language designed to move church members to decisive action. For instance, these bold lines in her poetic eulogy to General David Wooster castigate patriots who confess Christianity yet oppress her people:. But how presumptuous shall we hope to find Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind While yet o deed ungenerous they disgrace And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.
They have also charted her notable use of classicism and have explicated the sociological intent of her biblical allusions.
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VS hosts Danez and Franny chop it up with poet, editor, professor, and bald-headed cutie Nate Marshall. They discuss the terror of a new book, white supremacist Nate Marshall, masculinity Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation. Back to Previous. Phillis Wheatley. For instance, these bold lines in her poetic eulogy to General David Wooster castigate patriots who confess Christianity yet oppress her people: But how presumptuous shall we hope to find Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind While yet o deed ungenerous they disgrace And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.