When I am among the trees: Musings on Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, receives an honorary doctor of letters degree from Marquette.

Alyssa Contreras
Feb 14, 2017 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Poet Mary Oliver read to us of wild geese, of sudden and unexpected joy, of the shore in the morning and of speckled eggs. She charmed us with visions of catbirds in flight and the red-throated loon. She spoke of the poets “who feed my soul” and of deciding at age 13 that she “wanted to be a poet, along with an archeologist and ornithologist.”

In 2012, Oliver was awarded an honorary Marquette degree. In this special tribute, Marquette Magazine presents “When I Am Among the Trees,” with faculty reflecting on one stanza and how Oliver’s words help them see life in new ways.

Image for post
Image for post

When I Am Among the Trees

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

The 1st STANZA

Dr. Lawrence Watson
Visiting professor of English

Dr. Heather Hathaway
Associate professor of English, director of graduate studies in English and of Africana studies

The 2nd STANZA

Dr. Anne M. Pasero
Chair and professor of Spanish

Image for post
Image for post

“The poet refers to that sensation all of us have every day, that we spend too much valuable time rushing around answering messages, checking cell phones, making appointments and generally allowing others to consume our daily hours. We easily forget how fast life goes and how fragile it is, but one serious accident involving someone close to us reminds us of that reality in a minute. Many daily distractions take us far away from whom we really are, from that core of goodness and spirituality we sense but find elusive. Mary Oliver invites us to linger awhile and recover those feelings of hope and joy we carry with us always.”

Dr. John Pustejovsky
Associate professor of German

The 3rd STANZA

Dr. Kris Ratcliffe
Chair and professor of English

Dr. Angela Sorby
Associate professor of English

The 4th STANZA

Heather James
Research and instructional librarian

Image for post
Image for post

— Compiled by Joni Moths Mueller

Watch a video of students reading another Mary Oliver poem.

Magazines at Marquette

Stories from Marquette University publications

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store