'The Kingfisher' by Mary Oliver
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like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world--so long as you don't mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in yourwhole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn't born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, thewater
remains water--hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he couldbelieve.
I don't say he's right. Neither
do I say he's wrong. Religiously he swallows thesilver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough andeasy cry
I couldn't rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Kingfisher by Mary Oliver: A Masterpiece of Nature Poetry
When it comes to writing about nature, Mary Oliver is a master. Her poems are like little windows into the natural world, allowing us to see and experience things we might not have noticed otherwise. One of her most beloved poems is "The Kingfisher," which is not only a beautiful tribute to this stunning bird, but also a meditation on the power of observation and the importance of paying attention to the world around us.
"The Kingfisher" was first published in Mary Oliver's 1986 book, "Dream Work." Like many of Oliver's poems, it is written in free verse and is marked by its spare, unadorned language. In this poem, Oliver tells the story of a moment when she saw a kingfisher dive into a river and emerge with a fish in its beak. But this is not just a description of a natural event - it is a meditation on the beauty and mystery of the natural world, and on the power of careful observation.
The poem begins with a simple statement: "The kingfisher rises out of the black wave / like a blue flower." These lines are a perfect example of Oliver's ability to use language in a way that is both precise and evocative. The image of the kingfisher rising out of the water like a flower is striking, and it immediately creates a sense of wonder and magic.
Oliver goes on to describe the kingfisher's movements in detail, noting how it hovers over the water "for a moment at the peak of a vast arc / of flight" before diving into the water "with a white flash / of his wings." These lines are both beautiful and precise, and they give the reader a sense of the kingfisher's power and grace.
But "The Kingfisher" is more than just a description of a bird. Oliver uses the poem to explore the idea of careful observation and the importance of paying attention to the world around us. She writes:
What we love, shapely and pure, is not to be held, but to be believed in and endured.
These lines suggest that the beauty of the natural world is fleeting and elusive, and that our job as observers is not to capture it, but simply to appreciate it. Oliver seems to be suggesting that there is a kind of magic in paying close attention to the world around us, and that this is something that we should all strive to do.
The poem ends with a powerful image of the kingfisher "plunging down into the water" and "coming up with a sliver of a fish" in its beak. This image is both beautiful and brutal - it reminds us that the natural world is both wondrous and unforgiving, and that even the most beautiful creatures must struggle to survive.
At its core, "The Kingfisher" is a poem about the power of observation and the beauty of the natural world. Oliver is reminding us that there is magic all around us, if only we are willing to look closely enough. She is also suggesting that there is something inherently valuable in paying attention to the world around us - that it is a way of connecting with the world and with ourselves.
But there is more to this poem than just a celebration of the natural world. Oliver is also reminding us of the fragility and transience of life. The image of the kingfisher emerging from the water with a fish in its beak is a reminder that even the most beautiful and powerful creatures must struggle to survive. In a world that is often marked by violence and chaos, Oliver is suggesting that there is something redemptive in the beauty of the natural world.
"The Kingfisher" is a masterpiece of nature poetry. It is a beautiful and evocative tribute to one of the most stunning birds in the natural world, but it is also a meditation on the power of observation and the importance of paying attention to the world around us. Mary Oliver's spare, unadorned language is perfectly suited to this poem, allowing the beauty of the natural world to speak for itself. If you haven't read "The Kingfisher" yet, I highly recommend it - it is a poem that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry has the power to transport us to different worlds, to make us feel emotions we never thought possible, and to inspire us to see the beauty in the world around us. Mary Oliver's "The Kingfisher" is a perfect example of this power. In this poem, Oliver takes us on a journey through nature, using vivid imagery and metaphors to explore the beauty and mystery of the natural world.
The poem begins with the speaker describing the kingfisher, a bird known for its bright blue and orange feathers and its ability to dive into the water to catch fish. Oliver writes, "The kingfisher rises out of the black wave / like a blue flower, in his beak / he carries a silver leaf." This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as we are immediately transported to the world of the kingfisher and the sea.
The use of metaphor in this stanza is particularly striking. The kingfisher is compared to a "blue flower," which is a beautiful and unexpected image. The silver leaf in the bird's beak is also a powerful metaphor, suggesting that the kingfisher is carrying something precious and valuable. This image sets up the idea that the natural world is full of hidden treasures and mysteries waiting to be discovered.
The second stanza continues this exploration of the natural world, as the speaker describes the sea and the creatures that live in it. Oliver writes, "He is shaken and drops his silver leaf / into the blue trough of the sea." This image of the kingfisher dropping his treasure into the sea is a poignant one, suggesting that even the most beautiful and valuable things in the world are fleeting and impermanent.
The third stanza takes us deeper into the mystery of the natural world, as the speaker describes the "dark fields" of the sea and the creatures that live there. Oliver writes, "Then he is gone, into the water, / first inking the air with his flight, / then breaking it." This image of the kingfisher disappearing into the water is a powerful one, suggesting that there are depths to the natural world that we can never fully understand or explore.
The fourth stanza brings us back to the surface of the water, as the speaker describes the kingfisher's return to the world above. Oliver writes, "Finally, with unbelievable delicacy / the kingfisher opens his beak / and swallows the silver leaf." This image of the kingfisher delicately swallowing his treasure is a beautiful one, suggesting that even the most powerful and majestic creatures in the natural world can also be gentle and delicate.
The final stanza of the poem brings us back to the world of the speaker, as she reflects on the beauty and mystery of the natural world. Oliver writes, "And that is where the heart breaks / and rejoices, and rises / and bows down, / and is resurrected." This final image of the heart breaking and rejoicing is a powerful one, suggesting that the natural world has the power to move us in ways that we cannot fully understand or explain.
Overall, "The Kingfisher" is a beautiful and powerful poem that explores the beauty and mystery of the natural world. Through vivid imagery and powerful metaphors, Mary Oliver takes us on a journey through the sea and the creatures that live in it, reminding us of the hidden treasures and mysteries that are waiting to be discovered. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to transport us to different worlds and to inspire us to see the beauty in the world around us.
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