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Themes & styles: Mary Oliver

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Jennie Farshchian AML 4514 March 24, 2003 THEMES & STYLES: MARY OLIVER Mary Oliver's poetry aims to peer beneath the constructions of culture and reason to celebrate the primitive, mystical visions revealed through nature. A common theme in her work is transformation in which she transcends human consciousness and becomes one with the natural world, taking us through the process of self-realization. Oliver sees the natural world as the ultimate source of revelation about all things. Furthermore, a strong sense of place, and of identity in relation to it, is central to her poetry. Her poems are located in the places where she has lived or traveled, particularly New England and her native Ohio and her moments of transcendence arise from these regional landscapes. She comes to the woods or fields with an uneasy, questioning spirit in search of understanding, instruction, and solace. Oliver uncovers a certain wisdom in the natural world where discoveries about the self and nature can be made. ...read more.


She realizes that to not feel this sensational love for nature is to have turned away from nature. Oliver touches on the theme of society and how it can cause one to turn away from the natural world. Indeed, in a materialistic society filled with people who are obsessed with power and "things," people become unaware of anything else including the natural world around them. And to not understand and care for nature results in a sense of disconnection from nature. The values of our society form a blockade that hinders us from recognizing the simple pleasures of the natural world. One must step away for society, "empty-handed," in order to fully understand and appreciate the wonders of nature. She cries out to us to really look at this world and love it for all its sacred and ineffable beauty. In the poem "When Death Comes," Oliver considers a common theme in poetry of considering how to face death when it comes. ...read more.


This moment when she realizes how ugly and harsh reality can be is like "an explosion" into her mind that leaves behind a "shadow," a "rag" that "bleeds into the walls of her mind." She realizes how insulted and angry she feels by this invasion of reality. This poem follows with her theme of observation and transformation because in observing this disfigured boy she has opened her mind and though she tries to keep up the wall of her mind, this experience is far too intense. This boy has changed her life by casting this shadow in her mind. Mary Oliver vividly describes the natural and worldly experiences that have transformed her and enabled her to step outside human consciousness. Her revelations are always positive in that she becomes one step closer to self-realization, however sometimes, as in "Acid," they are hard to accept. Oliver reaches out to us to step away from society and discover the natural wonders that exist all around us- to transcend our own state of existence and discover all that life has to offer. ...read more.

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