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

I’ve been waiting weeks to work on this poem, with its famous final lines.

Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day,”  from her 1990 book House of Light, just sings summer, and now summer’s here (with the accompanying mid-90s temperatures here in Boston), it’s time to learn it.

I’m slowly reading the whole volume, and I can’t believe that for years I’ve missed that Ms. Oliver is perhaps the best-known and most widely read poet in this country. A native of Northeast Ohio, Ms. Oliver now resides on Cape Cod (her poems celebrate its interior marshes more than its seashore), and since I grew up in Cleveland and now live in Boston (and married a man from Cape Cod), her poems often feel homey and familiar to me. I love the intimacy of her observations, the feeling, almost, of conversation. This feeling of casual grace is remarkable, because elsewhere Ms. Oliver has written that she revises most poems forty or fifty times!

If you’d like to recommend a favorite poet, please leave a comment! Who knows how many lovely voices I’ve been missing . . .

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