“A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver

“A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver – Short Poems – (2012) – 82 pages

 “A Thousand Mornings” is a well-suited name for this collection of short poems by Mary Oliver.    I’m sure many of you have discovered that one of the best ways to tune in to the rhythms of the natural world is to take walks alone early in the morning through a forest or across a field or along the seaside.   These poems have the clarity and simplicity of a morning walk.


one small snake lay, looped and


in the tall grass,”

         from “The Instant” *

Many of the poems are about individuals and their relationship with the natural world.  In the poem “Good-Bye Fox”,   a person carries on a dialogue with a fox.  At one point, the fox says,

“You fuss over life with your clever words, mulling and chewing on its meaning, while we just live it.”  *

 These short poems are the kind you can read and re-read many times over the months and years and find something new and startling there.  In an interview on National Public Radio, Mary Oliver said, “One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear,  It mustn’t be fancy.”  Oliver’s poems are simple and direct.  I appreciate these qualities, because so much modern poetry seems opaque and leaves me perplexed as to what the poet intended to say.  Somehow the poets who used the old structured rhyming verse expressed themselves more clearly and succinctly than most modern poets do with their free verse.   Mary Oliver is an exception to this rule in that her free verse is easily understandable.    

 I requested and received permission from Mary Oliver’s representative to quote a few lines from “A Thousand Mornings”.  This is a difficult task, because so many of the lines in this book are worth quoting.

 I will end with an entire two-line poem which applies well to blogging


 “After I Fall Down the Stairs at the Golden Temple”

For a while I could not remember a word that I was in need of,

And I was bereaved and said: where are you beloved friend?  *  


              *         Copyright, Mary Oliver, 2012



4 responses to this post.

  1. I decided not to review this book so I wanted to know what other book bloggers were saying and I loved this review. I really love the idea of writing a whole book about your experience in the natural world as a participant and an observer. I’ve read a few other blogs talk about her NPR interview about this book and I’m definitely going to read that. I have to completely agree with you about these poems being read and re-read poems. They seemed so fragile the first time I read them and even though I feel the same way with some of them, I can really think deeper about them every time I read. Thank you for writing this.



    • Hi Cassie,
      I’m still ingesting the Tweets from your site. I particularly like the Taylor Swift :
      “I shouldn’t read into the fact that my family got me a new scrabble board (the one that swivels) & cat treats for Christmas, right? Am I 85?”
      I just got the previous Mary Oliver book “American Primitive”. There are very few poets today whom I actually seek out their work, but Mary Oliver qualifies.



      • Haha, I really loved that Taylor Swift one. I think we would be quite good friends if she wasn’t famous. : ) I will have to read American Primitive. I’ll read any book of poetry but I had been reading a lot of Mary Oliver online when I bought A Thousand Mornings.



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