Sunday, December 6, 2009

Owls and Other Fantasies, Mary Oliver

"Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." This quote is the end of a poem, "Yes! No!" from the very lovely little book of Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver Such serendipitous things happen, I think, partly because I try to follow her advice and pay attention. Some of that paying attention is acting on impulse, which is a matter of paying attention to some not-quite-verbal inner impulse.

In her well known poem, "The Summer Day" she told us she knew how to pay attention and proved it in a few lines describing a grasshopper. Here she offers another thought to ponder: I believe "imagination is better than a sharp instrument" but, at the same time, I believe we must use our logic as a sharp instrument to cut through some of the inanities that imagination run rampant comes up with. Imagination is an instrument of all our needs and neuroses as well as a conglomerater of all that we have paid attention to. The latter function is a tool of wonderful poets like Oliver and of all find writers, especially novels. But we need that sharp instrument when we consider the products of our imagination.


Kass said...

Amen. Again, how wonderful that you have seen and heard Mary in person.

John Ettorre said...

I rather like that quote.