Mary Oliver's Poems: Existential Questions about Spirituality and Philosophy

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Comparative Literature Poetry Paper: Mary Oliver
In Mary Oliver’s poems “Some Questions You Might Ask,” “Wings,” and “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field,” she poses existential questions about spirituality and philosophy. While each poem is unique in its specific topic and poetic style, Oliver’s transcendentalist perspective is found in all three of these “House of Light” works. She examines the essence and existence of mankind by applying the definitive transcendental reliance on intuition, conscience and the inherent goodness of both humanity and nature. Her works resonate with this philosophical romanticism as well as a great emphasis on spiritual living and the essential divinity of an individual. Mary Oliver presents her answers through rich visual, tactile, and sensory imagery drawn from her own immersion into nature and a detailed study of both animate and inanimate objects within it. And, she is always present within each of her works, a unique, single figure in harmony with all of nature. These poems present a clear perspective and outlook of the natural world and Oliver’s creativity seems to be divinely stirred by her natural surroundings. In “Some Questions You Might Ask” Mary Oliver uses symbolism, metaphors, and imagery to tackle the spiritual and existential topic of the soul. Oliver ponders deeply the physical characteristics of the soul – consistency and shape – through exquisite comparison to both animate and inanimate objects in nature. Is it solid like iron, or breakable like wings of a moth, Does it have a shape that is enormous yet dynamic like that of an iceberg or is it magnificently tiny yet consistent like the eye of the hummingbird? Oliver poses the philosophical question of who has a soul, who does not, and why. Using herself as the example, she examines why humanity has a soul yet animals, plants, and inanimate objects in nature do not. “Why should I have it, and not the anteater who loves her children?” “The face of...
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