Dear Mary Oliver,

I never did get to write you when you were here, on this Earth. I regret not telling you how much your poetry calms and inspires me to love the natural world. Still, this is me making up for it.

I used two of your poems in my final senior seminar, a seminar in which we discussed the natural world. We read treasures like Edward Abbey, Rick Bass, Denise Levertov, and of course, your poetry. (We read many other works, but these are the few that stick out to me.) My final paper was about how the Earth invites us, and me in particular, to go and investigate. I wrote about how I was compelled to let the natural world into my life, using my dogs as one of my many examples.

My seminar professor, Vicki, loves your work. She so dearly loves the natural world, and it shows. She bikes or walks to work, has minimal furniture in her home, and often had us go outside to examine trees and the world around us. (I admire Vicki Graham, but that is for another letter.)

The first book of your poetry I received from a friend, Gail H. It was my ninth grade confirmation party, and she had sadly just lost her mom. Still, she came anyway, bearing Thirst. I have still yet to read it in full, but the poems I have read are beautiful.

Mary Oliver’s Thirst.

People often think that poetry about the natural world is boring. If they think the natural world is boring, they have not tried your poetry. You bring the Earth to life, singing her praises, touching the hearts of whomever reads your work. You are calm, fierce, and thoughtful with your poems. You write so tenderly, so humorously about your beloved dogs.

Dog Songs is one of my favorite books, because I too am a dog owner. I love my golden retriever Bentley, who is patient–sometimes impatient to be fed or put outside–and deeply loving. Your poem “Her Grave” brings me comfort in the loss of my long-haired dachshund, Bogan. He was a good boy.

Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.

I love your work, and miss you deeply. When I heard of your passing, I was devastated. It felt like something had been lost to the world. It still feels like that to me.

Mary Oliver reads a poem from Dog Songs.

You loved the Earth as the Earth loves us. This past summer, I hiked a challenging trail with my Dad and sister. We came across the most beautiful field of wildflowers, all in splendid reds, purples, pinks, and blues. This stunned me, even though I’ve walked through wildflowers before in Colorado. The trek was hard at times, but the reward was breathtaking. This, I think, is what it means to love the Earth as the Earth loves us.

Thank you for all your beautiful poems. Thank you for what you’ve written of the natural world. I miss you so much.

Denise Levertov says it best in her poem “For Instance,” a love letter to the beauty of the natural world: “Erde, du liebe...” (Earth, you love…).


Meghan B.

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