The Work of Mary Oliver
Many draw inspiration and comfort for Mary Oliver quotes. My love for the magical words of Mary Oliver, was born when I was just a young writer. Her simple verses drew wisdom from nature. Her poems spoke truth about life. And those truths, she taught us, could be found all around us in the whispers of tall grasses, the song of a bird, and even your furry best friend. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and social and political injustices occurring across our country, I find myself turning to Mary’s poems again and again for a little lift, help with a good cry, and a little bit of hope.
That’s right, Mary Oliver, a famous American poet and non-fiction author, who won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, dedicated a whole book of poetry to dogs called Dog Songs. That was the beauty of her work, she knew that poetry wasn’t for the elite and that poems did have to be grandiose or pulled from the spectacular. It was the beloved, simple and relatable things all around us, that inspired her art. And she seemed to hope they would inspire each of her readers as well.
Look, we are living in pretty dark times right now. Politically, socially, and for many…personally. It’s a perfect time to hunt through Mary Oliver quotes that inspired and bring delight. Take a moment to read some of the following quotes from Mary Oliver’s various pieces of work. Mull them over and let them remind you that joy can be found all around you. Let them teach you to once again, child-like, find delight in the simple beauty of natural life.
23 Mary Oliver Quotes that Inspire
Quotes about remaining true to our natural selves
One of the things about Mary Oliver’s work that I love the most is how it reminds us of what life is truly meant to be like: whimsical, wild, exciting. The following quotes are May Oliver quotes that show her special way of reminding us never to give that part of who we are naturally up.
“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ― Mary Oliver
“I try to be good but sometimes a person just has to break out and act like the wild and springy thing one used to be. It’s impossible not to remember wild and want it back.” ― Mary Oliver
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument. ― Mary Oliver
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” ― Mary Oliver
“Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ― Mary Oliver
“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.” ― Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver quotes for writers
What people may not know is that Mary Oliver also wrote books for writers who wanted to be poets. In fact, she wrote A Poetry Handbook. The following are a quotes that inspire and offer her advice for creatives, including writers and poets.
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” ― Mary Oliver
“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ― Mary Oliver
“I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.” ― Mary Oliver
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
The poem in which the reader does not feel himself or herself a participant is a lecture, listened to from an uncomfortable chair, in a stuffy room, inside a building. ― Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver Quotes about Love
Unsurprisingly, Mary Oliver wrote plenty of poems with lessons about how to love better, harder and truer.
“Love, love, love, says Percy. And hurry as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust. Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart. Then, trust.” ― Mary Oliver
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” ― Mary Oliver
“Every morning I walk like this around the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead.” ― Mary Oliver
“There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving.” ― Mary Oliver
“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.” ― Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver Quotes About Navigating Life
And of course, so many of Mary Oliver’s poems and pieces of writing deal with dealing with the art of living. Something that is a mystery to most of us. In her work, many find direction, understanding, self-reflection and understanding. The following are Mary Oliver quotes that inspire and give gentle direction and insight.
“Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing, but looking, and touching, and loving” ― Mary Oliver
“After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then re-imagine the world.”― Mary Oliver
“Therefore, dark past, I’m about to do it. I’m about to forgive you for everything” ― Mary Oliver
“My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness. ― Mary Oliver
“In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.” — Mary Oliver
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” — Mary Oliver
“And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” — Mary Oliver