The Relationship between Humankind and Natural world in Five Poems by Mary Oliver Introduction



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The Relationship between Humankind and Natural world in Five Poems by Mary Oliver

Introduction

Nowadays, literature about nature is not common in schools. Many of literary works represent natural world, such as poems, songs, and prose. In this research I analyze five poems that related to natural world. I use five poems by Mary Oliver, which are Wild Geese, Sleeping in the Forest,The Hummingbird, The Summer Day, and Cold. Based on Kumin (2010) “Poet Mary Oliver is an American poet who is an indefatigable guide to natural world”(p.1).

According to Dayton (2004) “A prolific writer of both poetry and prose, Oliver publishes a new collection every year or two. Her main themes continue to be the intersection between the human and the natural world, as well as the limits of human consciousness and language in articulating such a meeting. Jeanette McNew in Contemporary Literature described “Oliver’s visionary goal,” as “constructing a subjectivity that does not depend on separation from a world of objects. Instead, she respectfully confers subjecthood on nature, thereby modeling a kind of identity that does not depend on opposition for definition…At its most intense, her poetry aims to peer beneath the constructions of culture and reason that burden us with an alienated consciousness to celebrate the primitive, mystical visions that reveal ‘a mossy darkness – / a dream that would never breathe air / and was hinged to your wildest joy / like a shadow.’”

Mary Oliver held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College until 2001. In addition to such major awards as the Pulitzer and National Book Award, Oliver has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also won the American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Mary Oliver was born in 1935 in Maple Heights, Ohio. She attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College, but did not receive a degree from either institution. As a young poet, Oliver was deeply influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay and briefly lived in Millay’s home, helping Norma Millay organize her sister’s papers. Oliver is notoriously reticent about her private life, but it was during this period that she met her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook. The couple moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the surrounding Cape Cod landscape has had a marked influence on Oliver’s work. Known for its clear and poignant observations and evocative use of the natural world, Oliver’s poetry is firmly rooted in place and the Romantic nature tradition. Her work received early critical attention; American Primitive (1983), her fifth book, won the Pulitzer Prize. According to Bruce Bennet in the New York Times Book Review, American Primitive, “insists on the primacy of the physical.” Bennet commended Oliver’s “distinctive voice and vision” and asserted that the “collection contains a number of powerful, substantial works.” Holly Prado of the Los Angeles Times Book Review also applauded Oliver’s original voice, writing that American Primitive “touches a vitality in the familiar that invests it with a fresh intensity.”

Dream Work (1986) continues Oliver’s search to “understand both the wonder and pain of nature” according to Prado in a later review for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Ostriker considered Oliver “among the few American poets who can describe and transmit ecstasy, while retaining a practical awareness of the world as one of predators and prey.” For Ostriker, Dream Work is ultimately a volume in which Oliver moves “from the natural world and its desires, the ‘heaven of appetite’...into the world of historical and personal suffering...She confronts as well, steadily,” Ostriker continued, “what she cannot change.”

The transition from engaging the natural world to engaging more personal realms is also evident in New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award. The volume contains poems from eight of Oliver’s previous volumes as well as previously unpublished, newer work. Susan Salter Reynolds, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, noticed that Oliver’s earliest poems are almost always oriented towards nature, but seldom examine the self and are almost never personal. In contrast, Oliver appears constantly in later works. But as Reynolds noted “this self-consciousness is a rich and graceful addition.” Just as the contributor for Publishers Weekly called particular attention to the pervasive tone of amazement with regard to things seen in Oliver’s work, Reynolds found Oliver’s writings to have a “Blake-eyed revelatory quality.” Oliver summed up her desire for amazement in her poem “When Death Comes” from New and Selected Poems: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Oliver continues her celebration of the natural world in later collections, including Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems (1999), Why I Wake Early (2004), New and Selected Poems, Volume 2 (2004), and Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (2010). Critics have compared Oliver to other great American lyric poets and celebrators of nature, including Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Muir, and Walt Whitman. “Oliver’s poetry,” wrote Poetry contributor Richard Tillinghast in a review of White Pine (1994) “floats above and around the schools and controversies of contemporary American poetry. Her familiarity with the natural world has an uncomplicated, nineteenth-century feeling.”

A prolific writer of both poetry and prose, Oliver publishes a new collection every year or two. Her main themes continue to be the intersection between the human and the natural world, as well as the limits of human consciousness and language in articulating such a meeting. Jeanette McNew in Contemporary Literature described “Oliver’s visionary goal,” as “constructing a subjectivity that does not depend on separation from a world of objects. Instead, she respectfully confers subjecthood on nature, thereby modeling a kind of identity that does not depend on opposition for definition…At its most intense, her poetry aims to peer beneath the constructions of culture and reason that burden us with an alienated consciousness to celebrate the primitive, mystical visions that reveal ‘a mossy darkness – / a dream that would never breathe air / and was hinged to your wildest joy / like a shadow.’”

Mary Oliver held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College until 2001. In addition to such major awards as the Pulitzer and National Book Award, Oliver has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also won the American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Oliver was born in Maple Heights, Ohio in 1935. “Oliver's second collection, House of Light, won 1990's Christopher Award and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award; her third, New and Selected Poems, won the National Book Award. New and Selected Poems contains writing from over three decades of work. Her book-length poem, The Leaf and the Cloud, was divided into two sections to be published in the 1999 and the 2000 Best American Poetry.” (p.1)

Glotfelty (1996) states “Ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. Ecocriticism takes an earth-center approach to literary studies”. (p.19). The reason why I choose the poems by Mary Oliver because the poems encourage others to think seriously about the relationship of humans to nature, to get central idea that nature can help a person gain a greater understanding of life.

D.S. Martin (2009) states “Mary Oliver’s poetry is a place which to dwell a field, a river, a shoreline that wraps its arms around wild things, and preserves precious moments that appear as the seasons shift. It is about attention and patience, just as love is about attention and patience and about quietly stepping away from our own four walls. It is about memory, and reflecting upon what can only be experienced when we respectfully wait for birds and other creatures to take their turns watching us. It is about praise, thanksgiving, and astonishment. It is, surprisingly, not about the poet other than that she is the one who has experienced what she is showing us. Since Mary Oliver’s poetry is filled with observations of creation, with praise and questions, it is an ideal place to dwell to meditate and to consider what our lives should be”. (p.1)

Simply put, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. Ecocriticism takes an earth-center approach to literary studies. (Glotfelty ,1996, p.19)

Rigby (2004) stated , “In Garrard’s very broad definition, ecocriticism entails ‘the study of the relationship of the human and the non-human, throughout human cultural history and entailing critical analysis of the term “human” itself’. The importance of this undertaking, in his account, derives from the premise that ‘environmental problems require analysis in cultural as well as scientific terms, because they are the outcome of an interaction between ecological knowledge and its cultural inflection’.

Garrard’s focus is on developments within British and North American ecocriticism, but his approach, which is rhetorical or tropological, clearly has relevance to ecocriticism elsewhere as well. Following a critical survey of divergent ‘positions’ within contemporary thinking about the natural environment (i.e. cornucopian, environmentalist, deep ecological, ecofeminist, social ecological, eco-Marxist and Heideggerian), Garrard proceeds to a chapter-by-chapter consideration of a number of key tropes governing ecocritical practice. These are cleverly chosen and arranged so as to trace a certain diachronic movement of ecocritical concern, namely from a focus on ‘pollution’ (which organises the introductory chapter), through ‘pastoral’, ‘wilderness’, ‘apocalypse’, and ‘dwelling’ to ‘animals’ and (by way of conclusion) ‘the Earth’ and its future.” (p.4)

Research Methodology

Research Design

























Method of the Research

I use library research ,also I utilize the intrinsic and extrinsic approaches. First, I try to discover the problems of my topic which is Ecocriticism in Poetry. In this research, of course there are problem formulation. The following problem formulation are : 1. How do the poems represent nature through the dictions, figurative language, imagery, theme and tone? 2. How is the relationship of human being and nature expressed in the poems? And then I try to gaining more information from the internet about the poems and the poems itself, after that I analyze each poems by Mary Oliver through intrinsic elements such as the dictions, Imagery, figurative language, theme and tone. Second, I have to find out the theory of Ecocriticism and the other data to supported my analysis. Then, I analyze each poems by using intrinsic elements I have to find out how each poems is presented toward nature and related to Ecocriticism theory and also find out the interconnection between human being and nature in the poems by using the extrinsic elements which tell about aspects out of the poetry itself, also I relate the analysis of the poems with the literature.

After analyze all of the elements which is required, I try to answering the problem formulation and the last, I try to making conclusion of my research and making suggestion as well in order to give some advice to the others to think seriously about the existence of nature in the world, to know how nature expressed in literature and to know the relationship between human being and environmental world.

Analysis

In Wild Geese Poem, the poet uses visual imagery such as, Wild Geese, The Rain, Prairies , The Deep Trees,The Mountains, The Rivers, and The Clean Blue Air. Here, she uses kind of visual imagery to depict nature and living world. She shows us a natural beauty that world has and she messages that we do not always to be good, we just have to love what it loves. And then, the poet uses Wild geese to show elegance and beauty. She intends to show and imagine how wonderful the world is. The relationship between the persona’s and nature is so close. It is seen that she loves Wild Geese


Sleeping in the forest is the poem that portray Mary Oliver’s experiences toward nature. She uses personification as seen in word earth she imagine that earth as her mother and earth took her tenderly. She also uses visual imagery such as the forest, river, birds, insect, and the white fire which means the setting of the wilderness. This poem is related to Ecocriticism because the poet use the setting of wilderness such as in the forest, river and also uses kind of animal. The poet writes the poem in a soft tone, as if she feels closer to the nature. It is proven by the first stanza of the poem that she believes the earth as her mother.

In The Hummingbird , the poet uses visual imagery in word Hummingbird. In fact, the poet intends to show the greatness of hummingbird in struggling of life. This poem teaches people value of struggling in life as Hummingbird does in collecting nectar everyday with their accurate and quick tounge in selecting the best nectar. In first stanza, she uses visual imagery by depicting summer setting which are warm and fertile. At last, the poet or persona’s envies to Hummingbird that has brilliant in their work as the persona’s wants it too. She depicts Hummingbird as visual imagery to convey the greatness of hummingbird in struggling of life.


The Summer Day is the poem that depict summer setting. The poet challenges us with the questions in the first stanza, she uses visual imagery such as swan and black bear . She uses swan and black bear to campere two thing in this world which are elegance and power. And also she shows the characteristic of grasshopper, in fact she uses metaphor such as grasshoppers to portray freedom that grasshopper does. she questions people what else we should have done, and what is our plan with this precious life, and the interesting question is doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? This question remind people to enjoy our life more which is beautiful and precious, before everything will die at last or too soon.

Cold poem by Mary Oliver portrays cold season, the poet intends to make people to feel the cold is. Actually she uses tactile imagery that lead people to fell the touch of cold season. She uses personification in word clouds bunch up and boil down from the north of white bear , splitting morning as if she imagine how horrifying cold is. White bear is metaphor that indicate the cold in the winter. The poet also uses visual imagery by depict summer setting which full of happiness ,warm and fertile. Actually, this poem is about fear of someone of cold season. We as humans have to value summer before cold season comes, because cold season is a condition where we have starvation,loneliness and even death.

Conclusion

In general, five poems by Mary Oliver consists of human emotion and values of life. She portrays her experiences toward nature, her fear of changing season, and her love to animals such as Wild Geese ,Bird, and Grasshoppers. Here, she teaches people how to love and enjoy this world with its color. Through the poems, Mary Olivers wants to show us her message about how to treat and value nature respectfully and remind us how wonderful this world which has moral value inside such as natural beauty, struggling in life, freedom, and concern of nature. Her diction in these poems is so exciting in emphasizing her emotion people through elements of nature. She also teaches s how to waste our time properly in summer with our happiness and love. Her relationship with nature is so close, it can be seen from her writing in her five poems she uses kind of elements of nature such as animals, wilderness setting and seasons to portray her feelings toward nature. She suggest that people should not trifling with the existence of nature because nature provides whatever in this world.

Wilderness shows a living world, Summer shows happiness, warm, fertile and blossoms, and Cold represents her fear feeling of cold which make starvations,loneliness,and death. She uses kind of questions that challenges us and to emphasize her mesage throughout the poem as seen in The Summer Day poem.
Her tone in writing are loving, soft, fanciful , fear and strong. She writes the poem Wild Geese and Sleeping in The Forest in soft and loving, The Hummingbird is fanciful , The Summer Day is written in soft too and Cold poem is written in fears and worried tone. She uses personification as seen in poem Sleeping in the Forest in word earth, she feels that earth as her mother. It can be seen that she loves nature so much. The poet gives messages and values of life throughout the poem, such as natural beauty, struggling in life, freedom, concern of nature, and love nature more.

In conclusion, Mary Oliver’s poems are good for people to think seriously and respectfully about nature because through nature people can also find out imagination , meaning and the value of life such as, natural beauty, struggling in life, freedom and our consciousness of nature.


My suggestion is from this research, the other researchers can write a thesis with this theory through Ecofeminism side. They can see how the poet uses female poetics that use elements of nature to show women’s status.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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Dayton. (2004). Biography: Mary Oliver. Retrieved on May 26, 2013 from



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Eagleton, T. (2007). How to read a Poem. Oxford: Blackwell

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Pleasure in la Vie de sainte Marie l’Egyptienne. University of Virginia.

Retrieved on June 22, 2013 from http://virginia.academia.edu/MonicaEhrlich

Garrard, G. (2004). Ecocriticism. Madison: Routledge

Heise,U. (2013). Reduced Ecologies: Science Fiction and the Meanings of



Biological Scarcity. University of California. Retrieved on June 22, 2013 from

http://ucla.academia.edu/UrsulaHeise

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(from the Romantic age to the ecological age. ETD collection for University of

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Fundamentals and Future of Ecocriticism . page 7-1

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http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/maryoliver.html

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http://thecresset.org/2009/Michaelmas/Martin_M09.htm

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Mary Oliver was born in 1935 in Maple Heights, Ohio. She attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College, but did not receive a degree from either institution. As a young poet, Oliver was deeply influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay and briefly lived in Millay’s home, helping Norma Millay organize her sister’s papers. Oliver is notoriously reticent about her private life, but it was during this period that she met her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook. The couple moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the surrounding Cape Cod landscape has had a marked influence on Oliver’s work. Known for its clear and poignant observations and evocative use of the natural world, Oliver’s poetry is firmly rooted in place and the Romantic nature tradition. Her work received early critical attention; American Primitive (1983), her fifth book, won the Pulitzer Prize. According to Bruce Bennet in the New York Times Book Review, American Primitive, “insists on the primacy of the physical.” Bennet commended Oliver’s “distinctive voice and vision” and asserted that the “collection contains a number of powerful, substantial works.” Holly Prado of the Los Angeles Times Book Review also applauded Oliver’s original voice, writing that American Primitive “touches a vitality in the familiar that invests it with a fresh intensity.”



Dream Work (1986) continues Oliver’s search to “understand both the wonder and pain of nature” according to Prado in a later review for the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Ostriker considered Oliver “among the few American poets who can describe and transmit ecstasy, while retaining a practical awareness of the world as one of predators and prey.” For Ostriker, Dream Work is ultimately a volume in which Oliver moves “from the natural world and its desires, the ‘heaven of appetite’...into the world of historical and personal suffering...She confronts as well, steadily,” Ostriker continued, “what she cannot change.”

The transition from engaging the natural world to engaging more personal realms is also evident in New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award. The volume contains poems from eight of Oliver’s previous volumes as well as previously unpublished, newer work. Susan Salter Reynolds, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, noticed that Oliver’s earliest poems are almost always oriented towards nature, but seldom examine the self and are almost never personal. In contrast, Oliver appears constantly in later works. But as Reynolds noted “this self-consciousness is a rich and graceful addition.” Just as the contributor for Publishers Weekly called particular attention to the pervasive tone of amazement with regard to things seen in Oliver’s work, Reynolds found Oliver’s writings to have a “Blake-eyed revelatory quality.” Oliver summed up her desire for amazement in her poem “When Death Comes” from New and Selected Poems: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”



Oliver continues her celebration of the natural world in later collections, including Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems (1999), Why I Wake Early (2004), New and Selected Poems, Volume 2 (2004), and Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (2010). Critics have compared Oliver to other great American lyric poets and celebrators of nature, including Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Muir, and Walt Whitman. “Oliver’s poetry,” wrote Poetry contributor Richard Tillinghast in a review of White Pine (1994) “floats above and around the schools and controversies of contemporary American poetry. Her familiarity with the natural world has an uncomplicated, nineteenth-century feeling.”


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