Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’

As William Carlos Williams wrote, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” What is found in poetry is a call to the soul, an invitation to engage with a deeper current that runs below the ordinary life-stuff.

We begin with Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’, published in 1986. Oliver’s words remain fresh, as they speak directly to our unconditional place in the natural world.


Wild Geese

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.


Watch Oliver read the poem here.

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