Mary Oliver Quotes

Get ready to dive deep into the enchanting world of Mary Oliver quotes as she masterfully captures the essence of nature, life, and self-discovery. These thought-provoking quotes offer a glimpse into Mary’s poetic perspective, inviting you to reflect, wonder, and be inspired. Famous Mary Oliver quotes have the ability to touch your soul and awaken your spirit.

Let’s embark on a journey of enlightenment with the beautiful words of Mary Jane Oliver who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Best Mary Oliver Quotes

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.  Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. Mary Oliver

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. Mary Oliver

Listen are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? Mary Oliver

I believe art is utterly important. It is one of the things that could save us. Mary Oliver

You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life. Mary Oliver

Animals praise a good day, a good hunt. They praise rain if they’re thirsty. That’s prayer. They don’t live an unconscious life, they simply have no language to talk about these things. But they are grateful for the good things that come along. Mary Oliver

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed. Mary Oliver

I acknowledge my feeling and gratitude for life by praising the world and whoever made all these things. Mary Oliver

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. Mary Oliver

I had a very dysfunctional family, and a very hard childhood. So I made a world out of words. And it was my salvation. Mary Oliver

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. Mary Oliver

Instead of taking the reader by the hand and running him down the hill, I want to lead him into a house of many rooms, and leave him alone in each of them. Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields. Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness. Mary Oliver

I’m going to die one day. I know it’s coming for me, too. I’ll be a mountain, I’ll be a stone on the beach. I’ll be nourishment. Mary Oliver

You can have the other words chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it. Mary Oliver

You can fool a lot of yourself but you can’t fool the soul. Mary Oliver

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. Mary Oliver

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There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you’re working a few hours a day and you’ve got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you’re okay. Mary Oliver

Ten times a day something happens to me like this some strengthening throb of amazement some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness. Mary Oliver

Believe me, if anybody has a job and starts at 9, there’s no reason why they can’t get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second best effort of the day which is what I did. Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. Mary Oliver

Walks work for me. I enter some arena that is neither conscious or unconscious. Mary Oliver

Poetry is a life cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Mary Oliver

Writers must take care of the sensibility that houses the possibility of poems. Mary Oliver

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world. Mary Oliver

I very much wished not to be noticed, and to be left alone, and I sort of succeeded. Mary Oliver

I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too. Mary Oliver

I read Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, every day. Mary Oliver

It is better for the heart to break, than not to break. Mary Oliver

My first two books are out of print and, okay, they can sleep there comfortably. It’s early work, derivative work. Mary Oliver

I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion that standing within this otherness  the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books can re dignify the worst stung heart. Mary Oliver

I went to India and was quite taken with it. There’s a feeling there that things are holy first and useful second. Mary Oliver

He is exactly the poem I wanted to write. Mary Oliver

I simply do not distinguish between work and play. Mary Oliver

Said the river imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going. Mary Oliver

My parents didn’t care very much what I did, and that was probably a blessing. Mary Oliver

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And that is just the point how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment? Mary Oliver

One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. Mary Oliver

I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us. Mary Oliver

I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and almost involuntary in my life. Mary Oliver

But I also say this that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive.  Mary Oliver

I have a notebook with me all the time, and I begin scribbling a few words. When things are going well, the walk does not get anywhere; I finally just stop and write. Mary Oliver

A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the trees, or the laws which pertain to them. Mary Oliver

To find a new word that is accurate and different, you have to be alert for it. Mary Oliver

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. Mary Oliver

I was very careful never to take an interesting job. If you have an interesting job, you get interested in it. Mary Oliver

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be. Mary Oliver

Almost anything is too much. I am trying in my poems to have the reader be the experiencer. I do not want to be there. It is not even a walk we take together. Mary Oliver

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Mary Oliver

I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem. Mary Oliver

I know many lives worth living. Mary Oliver

Apparently, I’ve been considered a recluse. Mary Oliver

Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs? Mary Oliver

I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are they sort of tap dance through it. Mary Oliver

What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven. Mary Oliver

I grew up in a confused house too much unwanted attention or none at all. Mary Oliver

Emerson, I am trying to live, as you said we must, the examined life. But there are days I wish there was less in my head to examine, not to speak of the busy heart. Mary Oliver

I decided very early that I wanted to write. But I didn’t think of it as a career. I didn’t even think of it as a profession. It was the most exciting thing, the most powerful thing, the most wonderful thing to do with my life. Mary Oliver

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money, I don’t even want to come in out of the rain. Mary Oliver

I worked privately, and sometimes I feel that might be better for poets than the kind of social workshop gathering. My school was the great poets I read, and I read, and I read. Mary Oliver

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Attention is the beginning of devotion. Mary Oliver

People want poetry. They need poetry. They get it. They don’t want fancy work. Mary Oliver

And it is exceedingly short, his galloping life. Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give. Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway. Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. Mary Oliver

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. Mary Oliver

Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever ness. Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect. Mary Oliver

Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. Mary Oliver

Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing the reason they can fly. Mary Oliver

So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray. Mary Oliver

In this universe we are given two gifts the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us. Mary Oliver

To tell you the truth, I believe everything tigers, trees, stones are sentient in one way or another. You’d never catch me idly kicking a stone, for example. Mary Oliver

We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it. Mary Oliver

Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that. Mary Oliver

And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes. Mary Oliver

We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness. So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy. Mary Oliver

For some things there are no wrong seasons. Which is what I dream of for me. Mary Oliver

Words have not only a definition but also the felt quality of their own kind of sound. Mary Oliver

It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day. Mary Oliver

You have to be in the world to understand what the spiritual is about, and you have to be spiritual in order to truly be able to accept what the world is about. Mary Oliver

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet talk entirely. As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you. Mary Oliver

If I have any lasting worth, it will be because I have tried to make people remember what the Earth is meant to look like.  Mary Oliver

My work is the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Mary Oliver

The woods that I loved as a child are entirely gone. The woods that I loved as a young adult are gone. The woods that most recently I walked in are not gone, but they’re full of bicycle trails. Mary Oliver

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny. Mary Oliver

I love the line of Flaubert about observing things very intensely. I think our duty as writers begins not with our own feelings, but with the powers of observing. Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled. Like, telling someone you love them. Or giving your money away, all of it. Your heart is beating, isn’t it? You’re not in chains, are you? There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own. Mary Oliver

In college, you learn how to learn. Four years is not too much time to spend at that. Mary Oliver

May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. Mary Oliver

There is nothing better than work. Work is also play; children know that. Children play earnestly as if it were work. But people grow up, and they work with a sorrow upon them. It’s duty. Mary Oliver

There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier? Mary Oliver

Sometimes breaking the rules is extending the rules. Mary Oliver

Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us. Mary Oliver

Poetry is meant to be heard. Mary Oliver

After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world. Mary Oliver

As a child, what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other. Mary Oliver

And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead, and that first world, that old house, is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost, or sold but more books bought, and in another place, board by board and stone by stone, like a house, a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and Amazons flowing. Mary Oliver

I’ve always wanted to write poems and nothing else. Mary Oliver

Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word. I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth. But I’m taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance. Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. Mary Oliver

If I’ve done my work well, I vanish completely from the scene. I believe it is invasive of the work when you know too much about the writer. Mary Oliver

I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self attendance. A condition I can’t really call being alive. Mary Oliver

It’s very important to write things down instantly, or you can lose the way you were thinking out a line. I have a rule that if I wake up at 3 in the morning and think of something, I write it down. I can’t wait until morning it’ll be gone. Mary Oliver

What will you do with your one precious, wild life? Mary Oliver

Writers sometimes give up what is most strange and wonderful about their writing soften their roughest edges to accommodate themselves toward a group response. Mary Oliver

And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead children out of the fields into the text of civility, to teach them that they are they are not better than the grass. Mary Oliver

Wasn’t it Emerson who said, My life is for itself and not for a spectacle? I have a happy, full, good life because I hold it private. Mary Oliver

Poetry is a life cherishing force. Mary Oliver

I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things. Mary Oliver

You must never stop being whimsical. Mary Oliver

I worked probably 25 years by myself, just writing and working, not trying to publish much, not giving readings. Mary Oliver

It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else. Mary Oliver

I learn a lot about my poems when I read them by the way people respond to them. Mary Oliver

What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live? Mary Oliver

I consider myself kind of a reporter one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write. Mary Oliver

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. Mary Oliver

I like books that are fat and full. Mary Oliver

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? While the soul, after all, is only a window, and the opening of the window no more difficult than the wakening from a little sleep. Mary Oliver

I’d rather write about polar bears than people. Mary Oliver

I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple. Mary Oliver

The challenge is to keep up with all the new poets at the same time I love the old ones. Mary Oliver