Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver delighted a packed house at Belmont Heights Baptist Church Thursday night, sharing more than 15 of her poems and essays, including several about her beloved dog Percy. Oliver’s appearance represented the keynote for the Eighth Annual Humanities Symposium, which this year centered on the theme “Nature and the Human Spirit.” Introduced by English Professor Dr. Annette Sisson and Provost Dr. Marcia McDonald, Oliver shared works from a number of her books over the course of the hour before participating in question-and-answer and book signing sessions.
Opening the night, Oliver remarked, “I’m astonished you people are spending an entire week on my favorite subject: trees!”
Oliver is the celebrated author of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose. With her lyrical connection to the natural world, Oliver’s poetry has firmly established her in the highest realm of American poets. In addition to her 1984 Pulitzer, she has been honored with the National Book Award for Poetry and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, among others. She is renowned for her evocative and precise imagery, which brings nature into clear focus, transforming the everyday world into a place of magic and discovery. Click the more link below to read one of her most popular poems, “Wild Geese,” which she shared with the audience Thursday evening.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.