Title Image - Quotes by Author Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I know the sag of the unfinished poem. And I know the release of the poem that is finished.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

It is a serious thing -- just to be alive -- on this fresh morning -- in this broken world.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

--Mary Oliver


photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Words have not only a definition... but also the felt quality of their own kind of sound.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Poetry is one of the ancient arts, and it began as did all the fine arts, within the original wilderness of the earth.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Instead of taking the reader by the hand and running him down the hill, I want to lead him into a house of many rooms, and leave him alone in each of them.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I would rather write poems than prose, any day, any place. Yet each has its own force.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I grew up in a confused house: too much unwanted attention or none at all.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Wasn't it Emerson who said, 'My life is for itself and not for a spectacle'? I have a happy, full, good life because I hold it private.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Writers must... take care of the sensibility that houses the possibility of poems.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Sometimes breaking the rules is extending the rules.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I always feel that whatever isn't necessary shouldn't be in a poem.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are -- they sort of tap dance through it.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I had a very dysfunctional family, and a very hard childhood. So I made a world out of words. And it was my salvation.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Apparently, I've been considered a recluse.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I've always wanted to write poems and nothing else.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

My parents didn't care very much what I did, and that was probably a blessing.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

It's very important to write things down instantly, or you can lose the way you were thinking out a line. I have a rule that if I wake up at 3 in the morning and think of something, I write it down.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I have a notebook with me all the time, and I begin scribbling a few words. When things are going well, the walk does not get anywhere; I finally just stop and write.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I worked probably 25 years by myself, just writing and working, not trying to publish much, not giving readings.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

People want poetry. They need poetry. They get it. They don't want fancy work.

--Mary Oliver

photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear.

--Mary Oliver

photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Poetry isn't a profession, it's a way of life. It's an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

As a child, what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

My first two books are out of print and, okay, they can sleep there comfortably. It's early work, derivative work.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

To find a new word that is accurate and different, you have to be alert for it.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I was very careful never to take an interesting job. If you have an interesting job, you get interested in it.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

The woods that I loved as a child are entirely gone. The woods that I loved as a young adult are gone. The woods that most recently I walked in are not gone, but they're full of bicycle trails.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I very much wished not to be noticed, and to be left alone, and I sort of succeeded.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Writers sometimes give up what is most strange and wonderful about their writing -- soften their roughest edges -- to accommodate themselves toward a group response.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I'm going to die one day. I know it's coming for me, too. I'll be a mountain, I'll be a stone on the beach. I'll be nourishment.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

If I've done my work well, I vanish completely from the scene. I believe it is invasive of the work when you know too much about the writer.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Almost anything is too much. I am trying in my poems to have the reader be the experiencer. I do not want to be there. It is not even a walk we take together.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Walks work for me. I enter some arena that is neither conscious or unconscious.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and... almost involuntary in my life.

--Mary Oliver

photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

You can fool a lot of yourself but you can't fool the soul.

--Mary Oliver

photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

In college, you learn how to learn. Four years is not too much time to spend at that.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I simply do not distinguish between work and play.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

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.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I'd rather write about polar bears than people.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I worked privately, and sometimes I feel that might be better for poets than the kind of social workshop gathering. My school was the great poets: I read, and I read, and I read.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness. So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I consider myself kind of a reporter -- one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I love the line of Flaubert about observing things very intensely. I think our duty as writers begins not with our own feelings, but with the powers of observing.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you're working a few hours a day and you've got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you're okay.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

There is nothing better than work. Work is also play; children know that. Children play earnestly as if it were work. But people grow up, and they work with a sorrow upon them. It's duty.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

My work is the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird - equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

To tell you the truth, I believe everything - tigers, trees, stones - are sentient in one way or another. You'd never catch me idly kicking a stone, for example.

--Mary Oliver

photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?

--Mary Oliver

person on road at sunset

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.

--Mary Oliver
photo of author Mary Oliver with quote

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

--Mary Oliver
light yellow sunflower head

My work is the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -- equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

--Mary Oliver

We wish you a perfect day!