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The poems of Mary Oliver seem like prayers that anyone can pray. Spacious and simple, expansive and ordinary, they don’t require us to believe in anything in particular. But they do ask us to pay attention to the fleeting and particular space of a moment we are living through, which she has touched so tenderly. Here you can listen to her reading one of her poems: "I Happened to be Standing."


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  • victoria Freeman

    The idea of keeping my pen in the air and just listening is powerful instruction for me. I’m constantly trying to capture moments in my word net and pinning them to the story board where they dry out and die.

  • Tom Trevathan

    She reminds me to feel alive!

  • Mimi Pantelides

    Birdsong What is it like to fly? To not be afraid to fall? What about singing so loud, So clear, A shattering whistle a hundred times your size? What it is like to wait in full confidence for the ringing reply you know must come? (from The Forest for the Trees)...How I would have loved to walk the fields with Mary Oliver trading word for word, thought for thought...

  • nita girish nanavaty

    Beautiful Poem..very practical.

  • Mary-Elizabeth McLaughlin

    The idea that prayers help me, not God. Seems so obvious, what was I thinking.This poem is so down-to-earth, so informal and right now. Thanks, it's just beautiful.

  • Rachael Denny

    A good reminder...

  • Georgianne Giese

    I love this "I Happened to be Standing". What is our attempt to be in union if it is not to make our everyday life a living prayer?

  • Judith

    Her voice saying “…I don’t know…” I’m grateful for those who say “I don’t know” when there are so many who seem very sure. Amen.

  • Lela

    Her non judgmental listening to the energy of nature. Beautiful.

  • Nancy

    Her open reverance for all.

  • Tom Zelinski

    Mary Oliver is always inspiring. The boundary between poem and prayer is indeed thin in her writing.

  • nita girish nanavaty

    Beautiful Poem and what a lovely perspective of Nature and life

  • Kate Harling

    Thank you Mary Oliver! You are my prayer…

  • Kimberly A Leeman

    Wow. "My hand in the air...." That's really all you can do when the beauty, the prayer, of nature blesses you.

  • Raghu Grandhige

    There is no one way to prayer. If one prayer from the depth of his heart whether petitioning or just BE - we all do based on our stage of spiritual growth. One is not higher or lower, just different. Raghu.

  • Sister Denise Landers, O.P.

    The habit of paying attention to the inner quiet, no matter what, is enough to gradually become aware of God as God is present in everything, everyone, our world and all that is in it. Silence is the language of revelation. God surprises me everyday; I am confident and unafraid.

  • Victoria Crawford

    "what could this be if it wasn't a prayer...?" brought tears to my eyes....Thank you Mary Oliver..thank you.

  • Nina Underwood

    I thank God for Mary Oliver and her beautiful mind and gift of Poetry.

  • Antigone

    We all could stand to stop, and listen, with pen in the air.....!

  • Donna

    Loved her tone of voice. Glad for recording.

  • Margaret Meyer

    Every moment can be a prayer if I am attentive and listen.

  • Lynn Miller

    There is a special quality of love in Mary Oliver's poetry that allows being touched, and then letting go, and I am somehow strengthened and renewed a little bit.

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    A perfect way to start the day hearing Mary Oliver read one of her exquisite poems. Ah yes, to pay attention and to see the prayer in everything around us. â—‡

  • Cookie Anderson

    One of my bucket list things was to hear Mary Oliver. Marquette University gave her an Honorary Doctorate and I got to sit in the second row on an aisle with full view of her. What a thrill. She wore the black gown with the appropriate sash and had black chino pants, black Chinese shoes and colored socks! I loved that about her. She was gracious and gentle as you would expect. What a wonderful experience.

  • Tanya

    Wow what a beautiful poem the way she read the poem was really touching. I never read any of her poems or heard of Mary Oliver but will definitely buy one of her poetry books.

  • Patrick Watters

    Free verse and prose as prayer, delightful.

  • Kim

    I Happened to be Standing speaks to me of the gifts of "not knowing" --of just being-with!

  • Don Macwatt

    Having been captivated by Mary Oliver’s poetry over fifteen years ago, there is not a poem of hers I would not want to read for the unexpected thrill and invitation to share her imagination and gift of words. Some gripped me and transported my imagination to places that still linger. Even when I don’t consider myself a particularly literate person. I didn’t have to be. Her poetry has never assessed my ability to appreciate it.

  • Heather

    She was spiritual to her core.

  • Dudley Gilmer

    Her reverence for Nature and her attention to the smallest blessings. Well, they aren’t small when she treats them.

  • maureen cameron

    Her wondering, curiousity and gentle voice,and in the end not the daily journal writing on the ready page, but... "I just listened, my pen in the air.." I have not paid attention in any meaningful way to Mary's work...now I am intrigued.

  • Colleen

    I came to love Mary Oliver after her passing. Her words speak to me on so many levels.

  • Page 1

  • Mary Oliver died in 2019. Listen to this OnBeing interview recorded in 2015: "Mary Oliver, Listening to the World."
  • Read about one of Mary Oliver's poetic inspirations, Jalal al-Din Rumi.
  • Poetry is such a key to opening the heart. Perhaps it would shift our understanding of self and world if we listened more to what poets are saying and a little less to the daily newscasts. Better yet, why not write a poem from your own heart.

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