April 27, 2019


Felicity by Mary Oliver
2016 Penguin Press
Finished on April 16, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, celebrates love in her new collection of poems

“If I have any secret stash of poems, anywhere, it might be about love, not anger,” Mary Oliver once said in an interview. Finally, in her stunning new collection, Felicity, we can immerse ourselves in Oliver’s love poems. Here, great happiness abounds.

Our most delicate chronicler of physical landscape, Oliver has described her work as loving the world. With Felicity she examines what it means to love another person. She opens our eyes again to the territory within our own hearts; to the wild and to the quiet. In these poems, she describes—with joy—the strangeness and wonder of human connection.

As in Blue Horses, Dog Songs, and A Thousand Mornings, with Felicity Oliver honors love, life, and beauty.

Every April, I have great intentions of reading a lot of poetry for National Poetry Month, but I rarely succeed. This year, I paid a visit to my library and came home with several collections from a variety of poets: Mary Oliver, Ursula Le Guin, Billy Collins and Marge Piercy. I dipped into a few, but it wasn't until I picked up Felicity that I felt like I had found something I could honestly say I enjoyed. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but Mary Oliver's poems speak to me with their simple and clear words. I look forward to reading more of her works in Dog Songs, Why I Wake Early and A Thousand Mornings

Here are a few gems that I enjoyed reading several times during the month:

Don't Worry

Things take the time they take. Don't 
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?

Walking to Indian River

I'm ready for spring, but it hasn't arrived.
Not yet.
Still I take my walk, looking for any
early enhancements.
It's mostly attitude. I'm certain
I'll see something.
I start down the path, peering in
all directions.
The mangroves, as always, are standing in their
beloved water,
their new leaves very small and tender
and pale.
And, look! the way the rising sun 
strikes them,
they could be flowers


When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room 
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing---the reason they can fly.


Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.

That Tall Distance

That tall distance where
the clouds begin,
the forge that pounds out the lightning
and the black porch where the stars
are dressed in light
and arrangement is made for the moon's path---
it's these I think of now, after

a lifetime of goldfinches,
meandering streams,
lambs playing,
the passionate hands of the sun,
the coolness under the trees
talking leaf to leaf,
the foxes and the otters sliding on the snow,
the dolphins for whom no doubt
the seas were created,
the spray of swallows gathering in autumn---
after all of that
the tall distance is what I think of now.

That Little Beast

That pretty little beast, a poem,
has a mind of its own.
Sometimes I want it to crave apples
but it wants red meat.
Sometimes I want to walk peacefully
on the shore
and it wants to take off all its clothes 
and dive in.

Sometimes I want to use small words
and make them important
and it starts shouting the dictionary,
the opportunities.

Sometimes I want to sum up and give thanks,
putting things in order
and it starts dancing around the room
on its four furry legs, laughing
and calling me outrageous.

But sometimes, when I'm thinking about you,
and no doubt smiling,
it sits down quietly, on paw under its chin,
and just listens.

Late Spring

Finally the world is beginning
to change, its fevers mounting,
its leaves unfolding.

And the mockingbirds find
ample reason and breath to fashion
new songs. They do. You can
count on it.

As for lovers, they are discovering
new ways to love. Listen, their windows are open.
You can hear them laughing.

Without spring who knows what would happen.
A lot of nothing, I suppose.
The leaves are all in motion now
the way a young boy rows and rows

in his wooden boat, just to get anywhere.
Late, late, but now lovely and lovelier.
And the two of us, together---a part of it.

There are so many more poems that resonated with me. I believe this is a book to own and read at least once a year!

Click here to read more of my posts about poets and poetry.


  1. I always say I'm going to read more poetry but I never do. The poems you shared are beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I plan to continue borrowing poetry books from the library and will try to read one poem every few days. I think they have more impact on me in small doses rather than reading an entire book over the course of a few days.

  2. Good for you! You not only celebrated Poetry Month yourself but now you have helped me have a little mini-celebration by reading these fabulous poems and sparking a desire to celebrate next year with poetry books of my own. I think I will add a book or two of poetry to my Classics Club list and I will plan to read it next year in April. Thank you, Les!

    1. Deb, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading these poems I chose to share. I do think Mary Oliver is my favorite poet and I may just have to get a new journal in which to record all my favorite poems. I enjoy going back and re-reading the ones that resonate with me. I look forward to seeing what you wind up reading, as well.


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