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I just learned that Mary Oliver died. She lived a long life, into her eighties, and wrote some immortal lines that will live on long beyond her sojourn on this earth. A poet could certainly do worse. Here are two of my favorites: The Summer Day, which posed one of the best questions I've ever been asked (Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?) and Wild Geese, which taught us all to be kinder to ourselves.
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1/17/19
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the lost women

Lucille Clifton, 1936 - 2010

i need to know their names those women i would have walked with jauntily the way men go in groups swinging their arms, and the ones those sweating women whom i would have joined after a hard game to chew the fat what would we have called each other laughing joking into our beer? where are my gangs, my teams, my mislaid sisters? all the women who could have known me, where in the world are their names?

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I loved this poem by Jane Yolen. She captured so well that feeling of revisiting something you loved as a child and finding that it comes up short now. The sadness that comes with it, missing the time when you could enjoy more freely.
Questions On Re-reading Oz
Questions On Re-reading Oz
strangehorizons.com
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I love the reversals paired in the first stanza of this poem. It gives the poem a sacred feel, like something found in a holy book.

The second stanza puts me in mind of Walt Whitman celebrating the beauty and wonder of oneself, of humankind. And what is more beautiful than surviving all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
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7/20/18
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The secret wisdom of quiet, personal moments is a common theme in poetry, and one that gets me every time. I love the mother's "strange confidence" in this moment and the child's absolute belief that has lasted into adulthood, that faith and trust.
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I'll celebrate with you, Lucille.
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Dennis Brutus was jailed for his anti-apartheid activities and wrote this poem during his incarceration. That makes it all the more powerful to me, that he still trusted that tenderness does not wither.
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When I talk with friends who are struggling to keep swimming forward when the tide is against them, when demons attack from within or without, I want to be able to hand them reasons to keep trying. But those are very personal reasons that each person has to discover for themself.

I both loved and was frustrated by this poem. I don't want that reason that helps me "rise each morning" despite the crap out there in the world to be inexplicable and mysterious. I want it to be a formula I can follow when darkness comes, a recipe I can teach to others, so we can keep a toe, or even a whole torso in the light.

I'm struck by the ending note of a bargain. With whom? Under what terms? Maybe we need to renegotiate . . .
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Ellen Bass in this poem has a genius for making abstractions physical.

"everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands."

"thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs"

But the real punch is that we are told to love life, even when we have no stomach for it. There's no magic formula to make that easy. The pain and suffering are still there. But you choose love.
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What you tell yourself makes all the difference.
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