October Poem of the Month: I Want to Write Something So Simply, Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver, poetry goddess

Poem of the MonthThis month’s poem of the month comes from Mary Oliver, a remarkable poet whohas won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry. She is well-known for her nature images, her simple yet powerful language, and the spirituality that weaves its way throughout nearly every poem. We used this poem in the Cumbrae workshop and it guided us into our own stories, told simply, shared powerfully, and remembered deeply. Enjoy!


I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think–
no you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

–Mary Oliver

(c) in the name of the author; used for educational purposes

Journal Prompts

  • Write something simple. Rather than strive for “large” language, stay small. Stay focused. Stay simple.
  • Continuing with simplicity in foreground, write one of your own stories that is both common and singular.
  • Think back to something you recently read — a poem, a novel, an essay — or saw — a movie, something on your walks — that stays with you. Write about how it moved you, again staying simple.
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