Happy Birthday, Mary Oliver

Today, we celebrate the birthday of the late Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019), poet and long-time friend of Orion. Here’s a simple offering of gratitude from Editor-in-Chief H. Emerson Blake: 

“When I was moving some things around on my desk the other day, these fell out of a folder. Immediately I was filled with love and gratefulness for Mary Oliver. She was always kind and helpful to Orion’s staff, and we were extremely privileged to publish more of her poems and essays than any other magazine or journal. She was, in many ways, the quintessential Orion writer—fully devoted to taking notice of nature, and unflinching in her investigation of the emotional relationship between people and nature. I miss her very much. Happy birthday, Mary.”


Here’s one of our all-time favorite poems by Mary Oliver, “Blueberries,” originally published in our Summer 2014 double issue: 


I’m living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long. Labor free. From various
countries in South America. They’re
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside Provincetown, they’re
enormous. But berries are berries. They
don’t speak any language I can’t
understand. Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them. So,
generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.

There are limits, however. What they
don’t have is the field. The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to. Well,
there’s life, and then there’s later.
Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods. And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder. Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine.
Which is what we did. Try packing that
up, South America.

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Chip was Orion’s Editor-in-Chief, and also served as the Executive Director of The Orion Society. Previously he was Editor-in-Chief of Milkweed Editions, and before that he served as Orion’s Managing Editor. Work he has edited has been acknowledged by the Pushcart Prize, the PEN Literary Award, the John Oakes Award, the Minnesota Book Award, the Oregon Book Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Bestseller List, Best American Essays, and the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2016 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Environmental Sciences and Forestry Program of the State University of New York. A native of Philadelphia, he lives in Housatonic, Massachusetts.