Poem of the Month: With Thanks to the Field Sparrow…, Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s third collected works, Devotions, is freshly released, and although it doesn’t contain new material, it does draw from all (I think) 26 of her prior volumes. It’s a backward walk through the decades of her prodigious body of work–the last poems in the collection were from No Voyage and Other Poems, first published in 1963. This is a staggering collection–442 pages of poems, with another 13 pages devoted to acknowledgments and index!–and quite the read on a chilly March 1 with spring peeping forth on the ground (crocus buds and tulip shoots) but not yet on the trees or in the air. I browsed through all 249 poems looking for one that (a) represented early spring and (b) was new to me and (c) moved me deeply. From a half-dozen finalists I decided on this one, originally published in 2009’s Evidence.

With Thanks to the Field Sparrow, Whose Voice is So Delicate and Humble

I do not live happily or comfortably
with the cleverness of our times.
The talk is all about computers,
the news is all about bombs and blood.
This morning, in the fresh field,
I came upon a hidden nest.
It held four warm, speckled eggs.
I touched them.
Then went away softly,
having felt something more wonderful
than all the electricity of New York City.

-Mary Oliver

(c) in the name of the poet. Used for educational purposes.

 

Journal prompts:

  • What is the “hidden nest” that offers you new, incubating possibilities?
  • The Digital Revolution has been compared to the Industrial Revolution, and I often wonder if the citizenry in those days lamented the irrevocable changes brought about by the miracles of machinery. Write about your life “back in the day” when an entire family shared one phone number and we didn’t all own several computers (car, phone, iPad, laptop, desktop) each. What did you have time for then that you don’t have time for now?
  • What symbolizes the coming of spring to you? Where are you in that cycle? (If you’re in the southern hemisphere, what indicates the coming of autumn?)
  • Start a write, “The news is all about —- and ——.” What is the impact of the news in your community, city or country on your daily thoughts, feelings and actions? What does it draw you toward or away from?
  • What voice are you listening to that is “so delicate and humble”? What does that voice say?

One Response to Poem of the Month: With Thanks to the Field Sparrow…, Mary Oliver

  1. Jennifer Wolfe March 23, 2018 at 6:21 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful poem and prompts, Kay! I’m using them lock stock and barrel for my two writing circles today! 🙂

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