Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
–from The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, passed away at her home in Florida on January 17th, 2019, at the age of 83. WordPress.com bloggers have since shared many moving tributes and today, we wanted to share how three visual artists chose to honor the woman The Harvard Review called “a poet of wisdom and generosity whose vision allows us to look intimately at a world not of our making.”
Read some of Mary Oliver’s work at the Poetry Foundation.
Contemporary painter GC Meyers recounts how his piece, The Singular Heart, came to represent Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese.
A while back, a person interested in my work sent me the poem…Wild Geese…This person wanted to know if I would be interested in translating this poem into into one of my paintings for them.
After a short while, this person contacted me again and said they had been looking at my work and had found a painting that they felt captured the spirit of the poem. The painting is the one shown at the top, The Singular Heart.
I was thrilled by the choice. It had the feeling and message of the poem without being absolutely literal. It’s exactly how I wanted to portray it. And the message and title of the painting fell perfectly in line with Oliver’s poem. The Red Tree stands, singular and alone, with the realization that it has a unique place, as does every being, in the family of things.
In her poem, Long Afternoon on the Edge of Little Sister Pond, Oliver expresses delight at the potential of life after death as a hummingbird: I can’t wait to be the hummingbird, can you? Artist Janet Weight Reed uses bold and beautiful color to render a series of hummmingbirds in Mary’s honor.
Looking for more poetry? Check out editor’s picks and features in our poetry category.
Artist Jean Mackay’s tribute to Mary Oliver meant venturing out to find beauty in the cold temperatures.
“My work is loving the world.”
So begins the poem Messenger, by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who died this week at the age of 83. Oliver delivered intimate observations of nature and deepened our understanding of life’s essence in few, choice words.
“Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums…”
And though there were no hummingbirds or sunflowers to be found here yesterday, I nevertheless felt compelled to walk down the starkly cold winter road in honor of Mary Oliver and to satisfy my own need to find what beauty might remain along the roadside.
Standing still in 21-degree weather means mostly frozen fingers. Still, there is no substitute for being present; for being astonished by the cold; by wingbeats of geese overhead; by curled leaves of grasses waving in the wind.
Did Mary Oliver’s work resonate with you? Share a snippet of your favorite Oliver poem in the comments and why the verse speaks to you.
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