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Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

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"harsh and exciting"
Added by: megan sprague
oh, i love this poem! i read it for the first time when i was homeless ans staying at a friend's for the week. my friend had this taped to her fridge door. almost ten years later i feel this poem in my bones; it and its message aer both "harsh and exciting."
Added by: A person
This poem is SO profound and perfect. I keep reading it over and over again. WOW. Mary Oliver also reads it along with other poems at www.lannan.org/audio if anyone is interested. Her powerful voice will leave you breathless.
Added by: Nanci
This poem is so powerful, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was as if it was my story, and I find that often with Mary Oliver. She writes universal poetry FROM the heart of the soul.
My Point Exactly
Added by: Jough
I think Nanci really pinned down exactly why Mary Oliver's poetry doesn't work.

Nanci says "It was as if it was my story" and that's why "Wild Geese" fails as a poem.

It could be your story. Or my story. Or *anyone's* story. When a poet attempts to be universal, they tend to kill the *poetry* that may have been written, but wasn't.

Poetry is about a *specific* experience. To read poetry is an escape FROM our own experience INTO the experience of someone else.

Do you really need someone else's poetry to "re-live" your own experience? No.

Mary Oliver, and indeed many poets whose work would be well-suited to greeting cards (since by their nature they *have* to be "universal" - a card for a grandmother has to be about most *everyone's* grandmother).

Universality in poetry is not something to be cherished and lauded. It represents the *failure* of the poet to adequately capture her own unique experience.

Added by: A person
Oh man Jough,

I simply have to disagree with you. Poetry is NOT just about someone else's experience. It's not JUST about escaping FROM *your* reality. Poetry comes in all shapes... there is no limit. How sad to LIMIT yourself like that...??? Greeting cards, other poetry that uses universal experience, can so easily be classified as "cliche". Ha, and there is nothing cliche about Mary Oliver's poetry. Which is one of the reasons why people respond to her so well... they never heard their experience (or every day experiences) "phrased" that way or this way before.
Added by: Au Contraire!
apparently you can not just "let the soft animal part of your body love what it loves" or whatever it is you wrote there, Mar. Not if no one will let you.
Jough, I must disagree. Strongly!
Added by: Kate
There is a line by Ralph Waldo Emerson that says "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men -- that is genius." We dont just find things that we already know in Mary Oliver's poetry- we find OUT that we know them. I'd attribute some worth to that...
Added by: V-Adore
I have to agree with Jough; this poem just suffers badly from a vagueness of purpose and content. The ultimate meaning seems to be "just shine on, you crazy diamond" -- we need to be told this? This communicates virtually nothing, and anybody could have contributed more or less the same thing.

I think there's a very common flaw in analysis of poetry where readers assume that, because many very good poems are vague or obscure, that vagueness is in and of itself a valuable ideal to strive for. This ignores that good poetry that's vague/obscure actually has something to say once you get deep into it; "The Waste Land," for example, is maddening in its obscurity early on, but when you crack it, it means something. "Wild Geese" takes effort to crack but rewards the reader with nothing in return.
Yes, many people do have to be told
Added by: S. Logan
First, I find nothing vague about this poem. It's not hard to "crack." Further, I don't think that every poem needs to be hard to read to be good. Or that every poem needs to be specific to the poet's experience to be good.

To answer the question that Jough and V-Adore pose, "Do we need to be told this?" I would say, "yes, often we do." This poem speaks eloquently to those who feel that they are crummy, rotten people who don't deserve anything in life. People who are battered and bent double. It gives them hope. Perhaps Jough and V-Adore feel that hope in the face of self-loathing isn't an appropriate message for poetry because it's too "universal." I think they're quite wrong.
Added by: bonnie
This poem is quite simply PERFECT.

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