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Long Life, by Mary Oliver--A Reader's Experience

Updated on June 21, 2007

What does the writer say?

Mary Oliver incorporates a series of essays and poems to write about the connection between nature, people, and animals. She writes about the small moments in life: a walk through a field, watching a lightening storm with a frightened dog, geese flying together in small groups, noticing the seasons change. When Oliver writes about these moments, they don't seem small. Instead they are pieces of life-the ones that make life colorful. Oliver writes poetically even when she writes prose. She can't seem to get away from the writing style she is famous for.

Throughout most of the book, I wondered what the connections were between the essays and poems (some of them were obvious, some weren't). From personal memories about taking walks, spending time with her dogs, and a boat trip to reflections on the roles of nature and seasons and animals in the world to essays about other writers like Wordsworth, Emerson, and Hawthorne, Oliver creates subtle links about life. Everything is related. Her love for nature is obvious and woven into everything she writes. Her ability to link such different subjects together--making them seem obviously linked together--is lovely. I choose the word lovely because she does it subtly. I didn't realize what the point of putting all of the different essays and poems together was until I reached the last poem. Closing the book, it hit me how interrelated everything she wrote about is.

What does this book teach me?

For a while I found myself analyzing the methods of Oliver's writing: oh, nice use of semi-colon, wish I could pull that off....But soon I became immersed in what she wrote, not how she wrote.

The most lasting impression Oliver created for me is the idea that all writing can be made to be interesting. Everything you write can be beautiful and balanced-whether it is a memory, an observation, or the introduction to a scholarly work.

The idea of including nature in everything you write is also appealing. We live in nature (although the future of that continuing is often discussed-artificial living environments seem to loom not too far ahead of us), so nature belongs in what we write. Oliver creates prose full of imagery without appearing cliché or difficult to understand. I often attempt to slide metaphors into my writing that don't always work. Oliver creates strong imagery but it seems effortless. When she has vivid descriptions or metaphors, I'm not kicked out of the story wondering "wait, what?" There is no effort in understanding what she's writing.

How do you maintain a poetical theme in prose without being too abstract?

What are some of your favorite poems?

How do you include metaphors and imagery into your writing?

How do you balance your writing to make it interesting and beautiful?

Please feel free to share your ideas!


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      5 years ago

      donL - L For me, the magic of what you did with these photos, and these poeple in particular, including the wedding, was that you really did capture the happiness these poeple have with each other, and the love between them, you can see it in the eyes and the energy of the joy, and joy of the energy, they have. That's a great photographer and it was actually quite moving to see that, in them, in these pics for that reason. Keep up the great work. DL.

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      5 years ago

      That's exciting, I'm glad I made it! Honestly, it took me quite a while to inepcst all these cute perky tits, often distracted by the other assets your models have to offer, but at the end there was no doubt, it must have been cute little Ania!Thank you very much, I'll get back to you via e-mail!Thom

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      11 years ago from North Carolina

      I feel the same when I read Somerset Maugham who weaves stories that one can relate to. I will check out her book. Thanks Stacie.


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