Mary Oliver is Thoreau reincarnated, a poet of the everyday and of the wonder and mystery suffusing the everyday, and a person daily immersed in creation with an unmistakable passion — a passion for life and a passion for words that intensify and dance with life:
I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
— the second half of her poem When Death Comes
She writes in A Poetry Handbook,
Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.
I’d only quibble that words at their best are not marks on a page or humdrum vehicles of news. They are, when delivered with discretion and verve, in fact “. . . fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”