“Blue Iris” by Mary Oliver

Blue Iris is a collection of poems and essays, most previously published, by Mary Oliver, winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. It was this month’s selection for my book group, and because I am a reluctant reader of anything but fiction (a tendency I’m trying to expand out of), I dragged my feet. The book, though, is lovely, both in form and content. Van Gogh’s famous image of irises adorns the covers, and the interior is sprinkled with black and white photos of branches, leaves and flowers.

The poems and essays focus on love and respect for flora, with particular attention to flowers and trees. Oliver’s poetry flows easily, without rhyme, and her essays are infused with the same fluid wordplay.

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers. And the frisky ones–inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones–rosemary, oregano. Give the peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

This is a brief, accessible book, especially for those, like me, suspicious of poetry. Oliver quietly contemplates the natural world, and conveys its wonder and beauty.

2 Responses to ““Blue Iris” by Mary Oliver”

  1. carolyn Says:

    i read a bunch of oliver back back in the day. i loved her early poems although i became disenchanted with the later stuff.

  2. girldetective Says:

    This collected stuff from a long period of time, so probably from the earlier period.