April 17th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, a chance to share your favorite poem with everyone you see. I've chosen Mary Oliver's "Why I Wake Early" as the poem I keep in my pocket; I'll be carrying around copies on small index cards to trade with friends who are participating. I'm also posting "Why I Wake Early" here, along with some links to her books.
While I constantly acknowledge Walt Whitman as my favorite poet, Mary Oliver is such a close second that they might as well be tied. I first discovered Mary Oliver as a student at Kenyon College. I think I was a junior, but it may have been at the end of my sophomore year. The Kenyon Review office would have a 75% off book sale at the end of each semester, getting rid of old books and journals as a way to fundraise. I bought a copy of Owls and Other Fantasies at one of these sales and loved it from the first poem. Since then, I've expanded my Oliver collection, and continually turn to her writing as a source of enjoyment and inspiration. "Why I Wake Early" is one of my top-five favorite poems.
Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun on my face
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the miserable and the crotchety--
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light--
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
Click on the links to purchase Why I Wake Early, Owls and Other Fantasies, New and Selected Poems Volume 1, and New and Selected Poems Volume 2 from Barnes and Noble. (You can buy all of her books at B&N, but these three are the ones I consider essential for someone coming to Oliver's work for the first time.)