A Tribute, In Loving Memory of Dr. Mary Oliver, Poetic Goddess

January 17, 2019
CS Sherin

Please Note: The article below was originally written and posted on a former version of this site. This article from 2012 has been edited and re-published in honor of Dr. Mary Oliver, who died earlier today.

Before you read the following article that I wrote after meeting Mary Oliver back in 2012, I would like to say a couple of things about her now, for today. Some of her childhood consisted of neglect, sexual abuse, and loneliness. Her life as a poet was the truest self she could be in this life, and the best. When young and throughout life, she found comfort, life, and what is sacred out in nature and with animals. She was a contemplative poet, with a naturalist’s passion for nature and simplicity. Every part of that encapsulation of her has given me hope and saved, affirmed, and encouraged me—as a survivor, poet, human, and naturalist soul. I send her well wishes on her soul journeys that begin today, and so much love and gratitude for all she shared with us. Shine on, dear Mary Oliver, holy voice for this earth—and what is so precious in this life.

The program for Mary Oliver’s honorary Doctorate at Marquette University on Nov. 12th, 2012; and my copy of “Swan” that Mary signed that night.

Nov. 13th, 2012
CS Sherin

Did you happen to feel a big bliss vibe yesterday?  It could have been from me.  I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational goddess of poetry–Mary Oliver–yesterday.  Because of this, I have residual Mary Oliver bliss that I know must be radiating out into the rest of this place.  *big smile*  Read on to learn what it was like to: see her, listen to her read her own poetry, get writing advice from her via the Q & A, how it was to meet her, and what it all meant to me.

I went to Marquette University with some of the best poetry loving friends, in order to witness Mary Oliver receive an honorary doctorate there. Mary Oliver’s smile, in reaction to the donning of the Doctorate robe, was such a revelation to me! In general she has a serious and drawn face.  And quite suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower of tropical sunshine.  It was a jolt–an amazing joy to behold.  We then listened to Dr. Oliver read her poetry to us. It was an hour, which passed like a few minutes. After, there was a Q & A, and then a line formed for book signing.  My best poetry buddy, Marci, and I got to speak with her briefly together, when our turn approached for signing—more on that later.

The main and briefly summarized impression I had from the poetry reading itself was of: Mary Oliver’s affinity and compassion for nature, her dog, and for the real connections of this life that she expresses in ways that soothe, affirm, and stir my soul.  This is why she is beloved–her poetry is transpersonal and deep, yet accessible. The whole experience was holy.

In person, Mary Oliver is small, and she is older now, so she has a cane and white hair.  She was very much like a fairy-godmother presence, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us. She seemed to me to be mostly: witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical. Also, Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, that are able to shine out upon the world–wherever she may be sitting, standing, or speaking in the moment. There is an air of serious concentration about her. And, it is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond simple observation—she is in deep relationship.  It is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy, and introverted she is. She made a tremendous effort to transmit her love and appreciation to 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 I can paraphrase as this:

Forget about being successful! Spend every day caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment.  Focus on doing the best you can, writing every day! 

She did answer my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?”  She revealed, in not these exact words, 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 also 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 devastating.  But I don’t really think that will happen.  Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.

Her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as powerful, yet gentle–a concentrated energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before.  Her eyes are full, with presence–that is it—fiery, grounded, watery, elemental.  Her life has been a discipline of not only presence, but deep relationship with all presence.

Speaking of those poetic goddess-like eyes, I had a chance to look right into them, across a table, at the book signing.  I was feeling extremely shy and in awe, but I managed to say awkwardly, but honestly, “Thank you Dr. Oliver.  I love you.”  There was a significantly silent pause as she looked down at the book I had given her, before she wrote in my copy of Swan, then she said quite slowly and deliberately, “Well…I don’t know you, but…I love you too.”  Then, she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking intently into my eyes–really looking.  All I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude.  It. was. awesome.

This signature in my copy of “Swan” represents a powerful memory I have of  encountering a person who improved my life, and inspired me, through poetry and parts of her life she was willing to share. I am thankful for that day and time.

What I have always known, since I was 12 years old—was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift:  A great poet speaks for and to the soul, as much as to the person.  She is voice for the soul, for presence.  She is also the 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.”  ~ Mary Oliver

Those words of Mary Oliver’s came to me as we all listened raptly to her, reading her poetry to us.

I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold, and maybe even a bit lost, and that she was feeding me (us) and my deeper self–like a mother bird feeds her babies. Yes, I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver, and it was bliss.

CS Sherin, WildClover.org 2012, 2019©

Poetry: Even In 1984 With Treason

CS Sherin
October 17, 2018
tinydaisylikeflowers_cssherin2018_wildclover.org copy
What gracious time is this

when I walk through air on

earth and swim through water

under the sky? What grace

filled time is this

where I am sheltered every night

surrounded by six other beings who

wish and show me only love, who

stand by me no matter the weather

or time?  What glorious synchronicities

are these that orchestrate order in spite of

chaos, beauty and kindness in spite of active

hatred, wild regenerative wellness in spite of

polluted toxic disease? What timeless peace within

is this that reverberates endlessly in the

midst of cacophonies of strife and unrest?

What beautiful mind-bending grace is this? –this

breath, this heart — the rhythm and song within

us? PurplePrairieFlowers_2018_CSSherin_wildclover.org copyWhat is this glorious triumph of love that

travels beyond atrocities, that has no rival–

unmeasured goodness surviving here,

beyond the vision and grasp of all the

twisted distortions that destroy, erase, consume,

and assimilate. It is the great mystery of

ultimate reality beyond this, yet it is evidenced

through and through. Just as we give up hope,

just as the darkness enfolds, just as the distortions

distort yet more, the day after, the breath after that,

PrairieFlowers2018_CSSherin_wildclover.org copythe morning after that, the week after that–woven

through everything, invisible yet ineffable,

indelible — Great presence endures — untraceable

even in the worst 1984 with treason.


CS Sherin, WildClover |WildClover.org 2018©


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Haiku ~ Fourth Week Of April

Lilac Buds, 2018. Photo by: CS Sherin

By CS Sherin
April 28 2018

This concludes this fun series of daily poetry that I began in honor of poetry month. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I love the discipline of the haiku. I have been writing poetry since I was 13 years old, but have rarely had a regular practice of parameters like the sonnet or the haiku. It is worth doing! In mid-life now, writing poetry is as joyful and mysterious a flow as ever–and even more satisfying. Poetry, at its best, is a voice of truth and of the soul. Thank you for listening to mine.

April 23
One inch closer to
my goals. Meanwhile this world has
lost its mind alright.

April 24
Everything shifts with
weeding, letting go. Garden
of what is real now.

April 25
Dreams are riddles
decoded in patterns of
the following day.

April 26
What do you like so
much that you want to chase it?
And what chases you?

April 27
Perpetual waves
of ocean, sun rise daily—
our love, enduring.

April 28
That weight is gone like
heavy snows melted turning
into bright lit Spring.

April 29
The kids frolic as
we step into our deeper
selves of skylark too.

April 30
I know the dragon
that bites you. For she bit me
too…insomnia.

CS Sherin, WildClover.org 2018©

The Poetry Month Series by CS Sherin, links:
Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four (current page)


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Haiku And Poems ~ Third Week Of April

CS Sherin
April 22, 2018; Earth Day

I have been writing daily poetry to honor my inner muse, poetry month, and the voice of the soul–which is a salve of relief for the spirit. I have been disciplining myself by doing daily haiku, with the exception of a couple. Today, as this practice converged with Earth Day, I decided to try writing a sonnet. And that is what I did! –with love for poetry, creativity, goodness, and Earth.

April 14
There were ten eagles
soaring high above our house.
I slept well that night.

April 15
Letting go of old
pain and mistakes hurts yet it
ends and is healing.

April 16
Writing over old
programs deletes them. I use
song and word sunshine.

April 17
Migrating birds have come,
singing, eating worms. Melting
snow reveals deep mud.

April 18
THE MUD IS DEEP
under the snow
even though it will
snow more–
past mid-April
as it is.
Robins are still finding worms,
birds are still singing
lilting melodies above our heads,
visitors passing through still
arrive and stay awhile,
squirrels still gather to play
and scrounge for morsels.
The pelicans have come
to our great river
with their
compelling size, unmistakable
beaks with impossible folding
pouches that can hold
three gallons of water–
who soar in slow motion glory on
the highest of winds…
The sun will emerge
the snow will melt
it will flood the rivers
as the marshes begin to arise
teeming with life.
Life will course back
into the greening of the
trees, buds will break open
into the miraculous unexplainable
beauty that are flowers.
As we persevere and breathe in
and out without trying,
we will continue to bring
cause and effect upon ourselves
and this Earth.
We will continue to form our
own realities whether we
take responsibility for ourselves
or not. As for me,
where I am torn, I am set on mending.
Where I fell, there are scars–
evidence of the ability to heal.
Invisible hard work done
in inner winter
floods into Spring
and Spring does come
inside
and then out
one way
and then
another.

April 19
Maple blossoms have
emerged, along with the sun
and real warmth, waxing.

April 20
Uninvited joy—
what a welcome guest! It comes
with sunshine and warmth.

April 21
A.I. think we are
pretending to be human.
Are they mistaken?

April 22, Earth Day
Over twenty years ago, I walked the gravelled marsh trails alone.
Today the paved marsh trails were teeming with people and each phone.
People with big cameras waited to capture the beauty there.
Wood ducks, coots, great blue herons, geese, teals, egrets, and turtles fair.

Earth day for some means a business ploy.
Or to enjoy being out in Nature spotting birds so coy.
As we walked past countless active people, I saw beyond the brambles to down below,
so much garbage—styrofoam, plastic, and an entire garbage can in the water’s flow.

I looked with frustration as it was out of my reach.
All the toxins in our marsh, with chemicals that leach.
Noticing the joy of us all enjoying warm weather, and at the same time,
so many ignoring the signs of our negative impacts that just don’t rhyme.

Earth day is every day as long as we live and breathe.
I hope we each can awaken to a daily Earth day before we leave.

by CS Sherin, WildClover.org 2018© 


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Haiku ~ Second Week Of April

By CS Sherin
April 13, 2018

Photo by: CS Sherin, 2010

Here are my daily poems I wrote this week in honor of Poetry Month (April 2018). All of them are haiku except for April 12th. Enjoy! In case you missed last week’s daily poetry summary, click here. 

April 7
When I dream I save
everyone, and when I
wake, I save myself.

April 8
Awake, we trade in
a veritable tomb of
doing, for being.

April 9
Emptiness can be
hunger, thirst, a place to start,
space for something new.

April 10
It remains too cold
for April. Awakening
happens anyway.

April 11
Remember active
conscious love, unlimited,
unconditional.

April 12
Little bird
high up in the bare tree branches
sings a song all her own
alluring, sweet, varied—
in the dreary cold
she shares a bright song
of warm sunny days
coming.
I believe her.

April 13
Your heart is so big–
mighty and tender. Love is
what you are made of.

CS Sherin (Chandra S Sherin), WildClover.org 2018©


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