Sure, it took a New Moon and Solar Eclipse in Scorpio to get me back here to my groovy place, wouldn’t you know?
Yesterday, did you feel a little extra bliss vibe? It could have been from me. I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational Goddess of poetry. And that is the “why”, to the bliss. I have Mary Oliver bliss! I went to Marquette University with my great poet friends, and saw Mary Oliver (!) receive an honorary doctorate. Marquette did a super job! And they made the event free! What a gift, on the whole.
She was so happy! Mary Oliver’s smile, to the donning of the robe, was such a revelation to me! She has a serious, reflective face. And ever so suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower. Amazing joy. Then, *Dr.* Oliver read her poetry to us (for an hour that passed like a couple of minutes), had Q&A, and a book signing. I got to speak with her briefly, when she signed my book, and it. was. marvelous! The love she has for nature, for her dog, for the real connections of this life soothe, affirm and stir my soul. It was holy.
In person, Mary Oliver is small. She is older now, so she has a cane and has white hair. She was very much like a faery godmother, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us…she was witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical.
Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, shining out upon the world, wherever she may be sitting, standing, speaking, etc. It is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond a simple observation. She is in deep relationship. And it is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy or introverted she may be; she made a tremendous effort to share her love and appreciation with us with grace, humor and oomph.
During the Q & A, a fiery passion came forth as she responded to a question, giving advice about how to be a successful poet. I can’t quote her word for word, but it was something like this: Forget about being successful! And spend everyday caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment. Focus on doing the best you can writing everyday! That was the best jist of it I can offer from memory. She answered my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?” She revealed that inspiration doesn’t hit as hard as it did once; that things have slowed. And yet, there was a new book in front of her and she mentioned another was on the way. She told us that she never had trouble with writer’s block. That if there was a little of it, she knew the answer was always connecting with the earth and being grateful, and it would come back, and flow. She mentioned that, if anything, she wrote too much. I could tell that having inspiration leave her would be like an athlete suddenly becoming immobile with no hope of future mobility. It would be very sad, perhaps devastating. But I don’t really think that will happen. Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.
Her eyes…her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as being so beautiful and packed with powerful, yet gentle, soulful energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before. I don’t quite know how to describe them more than that. They are full, with presence – fiery, grounded, watery, elemental. I had a chance to look right into Mary Oliver’s eyes at the book signing. I am shy, but I managed to say, “Thank you Dr. Oliver. I love you.” There was a silent pause as she continued to write in my copy of Swan, then she said slowly, “Well, I don’t know you, but, I love you too.” Then she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking into my eyes, really looking. And all I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude. It. was. awesome.
What I have always known, was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift: A great poet speaks for and to the soul. She is the soul’s voice. She is its medicine. “For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” Those words of Mary Oliver’s, came to me, as we all listened raptly to her reading. I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold and maybe even a bit lost, and she was feeding me, my soul, like a mother bird feeds her babies I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver. And it was bliss.