The Sensibility

“If it is all poetry, and not just one’s own accomplishment, that carries one from this green and mortal world–that lifts the latch and gives one a glimpse into a greater paradise–then perhaps one has the sensibility: a gratitude apart from authorship; a fervor and desire beyond the margins of the self.”
–Mary Oliver

I, like many of us, love and admire much of Mary Oliver’s published poetry. I have to admit, though, that my favorite things written by her are lines like the above: prose meditations about the experience of writing poetry. Why to write poetry. Why poetry matters. I believe the above comes from “A Poetry Handbook,” and when I read it I felt a rush of comfort and belonging. She knew. Someone knew, and someone was telling me it’s a good thing to love what I love.

What does “a gratitude apart from authorship” mean to me? I think it means that the words stand for themselves; that a configuration of words has magic that speaks to me whether they were written by me, or you, or my worst enemy.

It means I ask myself whether I would still want to write this poem even if I knew nobody in the world would ever see it. If I knew I would die soon and I’d never get to read it again. If I knew the linear life of this universe was about to depart its track and the words were destined to come apart into cosmic mists.

Would I still want to read? To write? Does it lift that latch; give me that glimpse?

Yes, Mary Oliver. Yes.

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