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5 Questions for Mary Oliver

Portrait of Mary Oliver and dog

Photo Credit: Rachel Giese Brown

Beloved poet and natural world evangelist Mary Oliver pulls the curtain for a rare glimpse behind her writing and life. Her new book of prose, Upstream, filled with gorgeous essays and meditations, was released in October.1.What are some poems that have been touchstones throughout your life?That would be hundreds. But I will say, in our time, the following: Edna St. Vincent Millay (badly underrated). Sometimes D. H. Lawrence takes my breath away, especially “The Snake.” And most of all, the marvelous poems of James Wright. Not to leave out Coleman Barks’s translations of Rumi.2. How do you cultivate the discipline of your creative process?You don’t cultivate it unless you really want to do it, and do it well—and keep in mind that wise phrase “Use it or lose it.” No vacations.3. You’ve said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Can you expand on what this means to you?I was mostly thinking and speaking of the world’s approach to the natural, original world, how much we consider only what can be used (abused) for our comforts. True attention might change that—my hope that a sense of wonder might brin …

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Alma Tassi

Alma Tassi has written for several magazines and edited books on spirituality, personal growth, and women's issues.

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