41 Best Mary Oliver Quotes (About Life, Work, Writing…)

Edward William with Helen M (Vlasak) Oliver birthed Mary Oliver on September 10, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio, residing in a rural neighborhood of Cleveland. Her father was an instructor of social sciences and sports coaches in the government universities of Cleveland. As a kid, she spent a lot of time outdoors, where she loved walking or reading.

At the age of fourteen, Oliver started to publish poetry. She went on to graduate from local Maple Heights High School. Also at age of fifteen, she joined the National Music Camp through Interlochen, Michigan throughout the season of 1951, now recognized as the Interlochen Arts Camp, where she’s in this same National High School Orchestra’s pep band. At the age of seventeen, she went to visit the residence of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, New York, where she established a friendly relationship with Norma, the sister of that same late poet. The next 6 to 7 years Oliver as well as Norma managed to spend time at the land coordinating the papers of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Mary Oliver’s writing is rooted in the memory of Ohio through her new New England house, setting much of her poems all across Provincetown after moving there in the 1960s.[6] inspired mostly by Whitman and Thoreau, she is noted for her straightforward and profound observance of the physical world. Without the need for doubt, Oliver’s work has inspired or altered other musicians. Her poetic pieces proceed to reach more people making her one of several greatest literary symbols in history.

Here are 41 of her best quotes of all time:

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

Mary implying in this quote that she also had a bad experience with a past relationship that she had. Only to realize, that too, made her stronger moving forward.

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

She is asking the reader using this quote to know what do we want to do with the only life that we had that will make us feel happy.

Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell me about it.

Mary means in the quote to follow the life that you dream and while you are at it, like her, the reader can write about the journey.

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

Mary believes in the things that make us alive. Even the good and bad things, even if sometimes it’s not necessary.

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

What she means in this quote is one of the saddest things in life is when a person did not pursue what he or she loves to do because of the circumstances given to that person.

I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it breaks open and never closes again to the rest of the world.

Mary does not have any problems telling you the truth even if it hurts but will help you be more wise and mature with the things that you will experience.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Mary is implying in this quote that no matter how sad or dark the situation is, there will always be something good that life can still offer.

Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves.

Mary Oliver still wants to learn things at this point and she did not regret anything that she did to gain the knowledge and experience that she had. And thus, she still wants more.

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. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

She wrote this quote to show and let everyone knows what she was when she is still alive and that her sole purpose of being.

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

This is Mary saying to love yourself first so that you know how to love everyone and everything.

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 promotes self-awareness in this quote. Showing that sometimes, you have to pay attention to the voice within you.

And now I understand something so frightening & wonderful-how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing through crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar.

She understands that our mind can be happy and comfortable with what it already knows but afraid of the things that it still doesn’t.

And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls 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 comment?

Mary sending this quote as a message to us to pay attention to us even in the busiest time of our lives. We have to make time for it.

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

This quote’s message is not to stop being playful and have fun. Also, a person does not have to make her life about somebody else.

As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules. Sometimes breaking the rules is just extending the rules. Sometimes there are no rules.

This simply means that sometimes you have to go out of your normal way to do something greater than you already can.

I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbably beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.

This quote simply means not be afraid to take any risk if the result will make you happy.

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’s message in this quote is to always welcome every day with positivity.

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.

This quote is a piece of advice to writers to always make write the things that will come up of their minds and to always stay inspired.

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.

This is Mary’s way of loving someone or something. To love all in, keep them to the best that you can, and if the time comes you have to set them free.

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

Mary’s message in this quote is not to be caught up to something just because it’s interesting because it sometimes, it might make or break you.

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.

This quote just shows how much Mary Oliver loves writing in general. She will go out and find inspiration then will not stop writing from there.

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. (Don’t Hesitate)

Personally, this is one of the best quotes that Mary Oliver wrote. This means to always live your life to the fullest and not to always think about the consequences because life is short in general and we do not know when will it end.

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.

Here, we can realize how Mary used writing and poetry in her life. She’s also sharing this in this quote how poetry can save lives in more ways than one.

.. there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do determined to save the only life you could save.

This quote shows the importance of believing and listening to your inner voice can help you live this one life that we had even in the hardest and darkest time.

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 is implying in the quote that how busy you are the day, you can always make time to do the things you love. For her and others, it is writing.

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.

This quote shows how Mary feels about certain things or moments like being lucky. For her, she solely believes in grace and blessing that she gets every day.

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

We need to pay more attention to us, to the people we love and especially to ourselves. This is the meaning of this quote.

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 the 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.

This quote is much deeper for its meaning. This shows how important it is to be aware of everything and anything around you no matter what and by doing that, it will help you understand life more and more.

Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

This quote is asking that one question and also inspiring us to make more of our life even if it will just end one way or another.

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

This is Mary telling us that art itself is important and can be a big part of our every day lives.

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.

In life, hardships and trials are inevitable. All we can do about this is to change our focus to the things that can make us happy and the things that we always want to do.

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

This shows how Mary treats her books of life work. It is not just a thing. For her, it is someone that understands the person that wrote it. She and her books have that special bond.

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.

This is her take on writing itself. For her, writing can always be in any form. Even if you are planning to be a writer as a career or a person that loves to write.

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

This is a writer’s take on teamwork and working as a group. Sometimes, you have you give up even the greatest idea to achieve your common goal as a group.

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

This quote is more of personal advice from Mary. For her, being alone than working with a group is always better in writing so that you can maximize your potential.

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, in this quote, tells how she wants to deliver her writings. She wants the reader to experience and understand it more themselves than she walking through it with them.

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. I spent a great deal of time in my younger years just writing and reading, walking around the woods in Ohio, where I grew up.

This quote simply means how a person would want more to make them happy so what she is implying is that you have to stay as much as you can to whatever that makes you happy and spend the rest of your days doing it.

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 the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.

This quote is Mary’s take as a dog lover. She has been a pet lover all her life and this shows how radiant and positive it is to have a pet in your life.

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.

This is a quote within a quote that Mary wrote showing how private her life is even being popular and how much it made her happy.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

This quote implies that it is not the other things that are important, what should a person do is to let out that inner self that makes us all human in the first place.

From the complications of loving you, I think there is no end or return. no answer, no coming out of it. which is the only way to love, isn’t it? this isn’t a playground, this is earth, our heaven, for a while. therefore I have given precedence to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods that hold you in the center of my world. and I say to my body: grow thinner still. and I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song. and I say to my heart: rave on.

This is quote goes to show Mary’s take on love and what it exactly means. This quote shows how unconditional love works without any boundaries and sometimes unexplainable.

Final Thoughts

She has clearly defined true spectacular scenes which by her artwork glorify Mother Earth’s greatness. The focus of Mary Oliver ‘s work is aimed at the basic details of life that really can build a euphoric feeling that people typically neglect in search of materialistic possessions. Her poetry often combines dark deep thinking with a joyous escape, that she’d be frequently associated with Emily Dickinson, who she expressed an affinity for inner monologue and isolation.

Through 2012 Oliver has been diagnosed with cancer but received treatment and a good quality health bill. She ultimately died suddenly on 17 January 2019 mainly due to lymphoma here at our own Florida home today. we’ve collected several of the most unforgettable quotations and sayings from Mary Oliver that demonstrate her opinions and ideas on life, writing, work, and much more.

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