National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 8

If you have been following these Writing Wild posts, you may have noticed the profiled authors are in roughly chronological order. As we approach the present, there are more writers I am familiar with, even a fan of. That is true today. Award-winning poet Mary Oliver, who died in 2019, is well known and widely loved. Ruth Franklin, writing in The New Yorker, states that Oliver “tends to use nature as a springboard to the sacred.” Kathryn Aalto explains that “a fusion of mystery,prayer, and presence is at the heart of all Oliver’s poetry and prose.” (Writing Wild, p. 92)

Attempting to write a poem after Mary Oliver seems like a fool’s errand. And yet I am compelled to follow her “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I have been following these directions for over sixty years, long before I’d heard of Mary Oliver. But the poetry of those steps has always been in my bones.

I decided the best approach to today’s challenge would be to use one of Oliver’s poems as a mentor text, copy it “word for word, then replace [that poet’s] language with your own.” (I posed this challenge for my critique group back in February.

Deciding on a subject wasn’t difficult. Also on my blog today is a celebration of Leslie Bulion & Robert Meganck’s wonderful new book, Spi-Ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs. I have always loved the beauty and grace of spiders. A spider I observed in my garden one morning became the topic of this poem. I couldn’t find and poems by Mary Oliver about spiders (I looked quickly; there must be one or two). The mentor poem I chose is “The Instant” (found on p. 51 of Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver). Oliver’s words from the original poem are italicized.

The Instant
after Mary Oliver

a small spider,
pearly and round
scrambled through
the high grass, it

seemed desperate to
get away from
my invading hands
but couldn’t move 

fast enough. Was she
swollen with eggs,
impelled by instinct
to protect them?

My heart ached for her,
remembered a feverish boy,
clutched by a silent enemy
one long ago night, and with no sound at all
I was gone.

Draft, ©2021, Catherine Flynn

Previous Writing Wild posts:

Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin
Day 5: Vita Sackville-West
Day 6: Nan Shepherd
Day 7: Rachel Carson

27 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 8

  1. Mary Oliver is a favorite poet of mine. This exercise of writing alongside an accomplished poet works well. I like your use of enjambment. The last line from MO works well for how I respond to spiders. I like to just silently let them be. I also read your review of Spider-ku. I must get that book. Leslie’s books are a staple in my classroom. Her use of science and poetry is a teacher’s tool.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous poem ‘out of’ Mary Oliver, Catherine. The empathy for that spider, perhaps a mom, & then your connection is something I wish everyone had. I have the Spi-Ku sharing tomorrow, a marvelous book that my youngest granddaughter is loving when she visits. Soon, it’ll be hers. Thanks for all the connections.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Did you know that the Writing Wild book was promoted by the Nature Conservancy in a recent issue of its magazine? I was surprised to see a familiar (thanks to you) name there. Just thought you might like to know!
    Alice Horning

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Oliver, the QUEEEN. That moment of remembering from a current moment. You’ve captured it and Mary Oliver’s spirit as well. Gosh. This is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am guessing if I was forced to only have one poet’s books in my house I would be hard-pressed not to ask for Mary Oliver. Your poem is fabulous and not a fool’s errand. She teaches so much but while that is not her intent exactly, sharing her insight and delight and wholeness brought by being in nature and explaining the power of that experience so brilliantly earns her the name teacher in my book. And the spider caring about its duty….protecting by instinct like all good parents…..holding their child through a difficult night/storm. i am so enjoying your work this month and catching on when I can concentrate is so good for me. Your work is both beautiful and intelligent. Thank you.
    Janet Clare F.

    Liked by 1 person

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