The Leaf and the Cloud by Mary Oliver

Driftwood (c) Katrien Vander Straeten, 2004


Every year, once a year, I need to return to that long poem by Mary Oliver, The Leaf and the Cloud (published in 2000). It is a poem like life, with everything in it, only magnified and condensed. I can’t say much about it, only that it reverberates deeply with me, and comforts me, and puts me in touch with myself, makes me more honest. And then it also creates that distance, the kind of poetic distance that allows me to take a good look, at everything. It’s a good poem that way. An excerpt:



Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance .

In the glare of your mind, be modest.

And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.

This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

Look! This is how it starts:

Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

An idea is brewing, for a new novel. I’ve sent my first thirteen chapters off to ten readers, and though I still need to write down the last chapter – yes, I deprived them of the ending! – and then edit, and sell it to an agent and a publisher, and all that… I feel I have let it go. And now it’s time for a new story.

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