Jun 13 2014

Mary Oliver – Sunrise

Published by at 8:01 am under Poetry

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it–
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

— from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver

/ Photo by Zach Dischner /

We have a full moon. A little Friday the 13th energy to keep us on our toes. And the Summer Solstice is just a few days away. Time to unleash your wild side. Dance under the moonlight. Shout to greet the sunrise. Embarrass yourself and your neighbors. When will you have a better excuse?

Me, I am going to recite poetry with friends. Words are just words, but the breath they ride on, now that’s dangerous!

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us?

More than anything else, the bold act of a deep breath is a proclamation of being, of self, of presence, when so much conspires to sweep you into negation. Rebels breathe deeply. It is another way to enter fire.

Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Mary Oliver was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1935.

As a young writer, Mary Oliver was influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay and, in fact, as a teenager briefly lived in the home of the recently deceased Millay, helping to organize Millay’s papers.

Mary Oliver attended college at Ohio State University, and later at Vassar College.

Mary Oliver’s poetry is deeply aware of the natural world, particularly the birds and trees and ponds of her adopted state of Massachusetts.

Her collection of poetry “American Primitive” won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

More poetry by Mary Oliver

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Mary Oliver – Sunrise”

  1. Monicaon 13 Jun 2014 at 1:03 pm


    Time and time again you have chose the perfect poem. Mary Oliver is one of my personal favorites. You can take her first works and then take today’s and see how she has grown, as we all must.


  2. sande waybillon 13 Jun 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Lovely choice, Ivan. To me it talks of the options for Tibetans – many of whom have self-immolated – another form of ‘fire-exit’ death. Hopefully many more of us will take those ‘deep breath’s…and open up to a wider possibility encompassing all, a far better optiion to fire the mind than body. Self to one more, to some, to many, to all….

  3. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 14 Jun 2014 at 10:35 am

    Mary Oliver’s love of Nature has always touched me and today she widens my vision to all of life: “What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us?”
    I pray that I be so aware of the world I am a part of.
    No separation.
    Thank you, Ivan

  4. […] Councilman Michael DeFusco, a parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul who is gay, read a poem by Mary Oliver, “Sunrise,” that he thought was a fitting tribute to Hall, whose outspokenness may have cost him his […]

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