I just started this new book by Mary Oliver called A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. Oliver was a world renowned poet, with works like “The Summer Day”, “Wild Geese”, and “The Swan”. I’ve shared a few of her poems here, and will continue to do so as I read them.

I would like to write, someday, like Mary Oliver did. That’s why I got this little Handbook. In her own sweet and simple way, Oliver relays to both amateur poets and readers of poetry tips on how to read, understand, and write poems. What makes a poem? What elements are important in a poem? She doesn’t write like this is a textbook. Rather, it is more of a conversation, maybe even a lecture she might have given to her students. She offers technical terms, but uses examples so that anyone can understand what she is saying. For Oliver, poetry is a way to communicate emotions and feelings of the heart. She wants her readers to be able to communicate their own emotions, feelings, and experiences in their own poems. She is an encourager, not just a teacher.

“A poet’s interest in craft never fades, of course. This book is not meant to be more than a beginning – but it is meant to be a good beginning… It is written to empower the beginning writer who stands between two marvelous and complex things – an experience (or an idea or a feeling), and the urge to tell about it in the best possible conjunction of words.”

Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook, 1994

I wish I could have taken writing classes from Mary Oliver. I feel like I would have learned so much. Maybe I would have started writing publicly when I was much younger. Anyway, the past cannot be undone, but the future has yet to unfold. I plan on reading and rereading this book while I practice Oliver’s teachings. Maybe one day, I can be a poet too.