April 28: Why Mary Oliver's Poetry Matters
Facilitator: Tom Richie
Walter Brueggemann writes about the urgency and power of the "poetic word" for the worshipping congregation, a "community that has come all too often to expect nothing but prose." He says that when the text of our lives is reduced to prose, "there is a dread dullness that besets the human spirit...we become so beaten by prose that only poetic articulation has a chance to let us live." (Finally Comes the Poet, 9-10) Mary Oliver just may be the best contemporary poet to help us o vercome this "dread dullness" and to read the most important text of all, each person's own life.
Writing about Mary Oliver (1935 - 2-19) as a mystic poet of the natural world, Debra Dean Murphy says, "She remains true to what her work has always been about: pointing readers to the gift of presence - reminding us, in the poems that are often deceptively simple, of what it means to attend to what is before us in any given moment." Through more than 20 volumes of poetry, Oliver's poems have invited her readers to wake up, to listen, to ask questions, to be astonished, to face our mortality, and to bow often. Her poems often evoke a deep spirituality, and many of them have been read, blogged, memorized and recited so often they are like an unbound book of common prayer.
Tom Richie, who has read, appreciated, and shared Oliver's poetry for many years, will lead us as we explore and respond to her work. A native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, he has been an ordained Presbyterian Minister for over 50 yeras. He retired in 2008 and moved to Flat Rock in 2017.