One of three places that I’ve come across Mary Oliver’s poem, The Wild Geese, in the last month or so was as a kind of epigraph—before the table of contents—to the poetry anthology, Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley. The anthology, first published in Britain, is one I would recommend, and I’ll probably get around to writing about it more here on this site one of these days. Meanwhile, today, I wanted to draw your attention to one particular poem that I found in the anthology—a poem called “Sweetness,” by Stephen Dunn.
The poem is freely available on the web, this because of a project–Poetry Out Loud–which encourages high school students to memorize and recite poetry.
The poem can be found here.
(Incidentally, if you want to browse the poetry on their site you can click here. They have a fairly extensive online collection—)
But back to the poem, Sweetness—the first seven lines—
Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac
with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
and changed nothing in the world
except the way I stumbled through it. . .
The poem makes me think, among other things, of that bag of tomatoes and that rotisserie chicken in Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer. But any way you look at it, I think maybe he’s onto something—–