One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver is coming to UCLA! Woo Hoo!!!
When I lived in Iowa City, I had no idea how lucky we were to have the world's most renowned poets, playwrights, and writers visiting our campus every week. I attended hundreds of readings by Nobel prize winning writers and poet laureates, and thought nothing of it.
I assumed every twenty-two-year-old spent their weekends listening to Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand and Billy Collins recite poetry. It was quite a shock when I moved to Los Angeles and realized that the real world cared very little for the spoken word. In LA, people would rather hear Tom Cruise recite his latte order at Starbucks, than hear a fashionably challenged, but brilliant writer recite their life's work.
I don't believe it when people say poetry and theatre are dead. For me, when I read something like Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" or Yeats' "Reconciliation," I feel like there is nothing more alive. The only thing I can compare it to is the emptiness I experience after a night of television. After three hours of reality tv, like "Supernanny" or some VH1 special on Bon Jovi, I turn off the tv feeling defeated and guilty, like I've literally sold hours of my life to the devil. But after reading a good book, or poetry, I feel connected to the person who wrote the words, connected to their history and connected to the world. Poetry is vital to me because it's someone taking the time to show me the beauty in something I hadn't noticed before. It's like going on a walk with a toddler. Every few feet they stop and say, "Look, moon beautiful," or "flower smell candy," or "puppies pee like daddy!" To me, that's poetry. I just appreciate the time they took to say, "hey, stop your busy life and look at it THIS WAY!"
I guess I'm just a big dork but I can't wait to see one of my favorite writers in action.
Here is one of my Mary Oliver favorites. Don't let the title fool you. It's very hopeful.
When Death Comes
By Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.