'The Kingfisher' by Mary Oliver
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The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
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 your
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, the
remains water--hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could
I don't say he's right. Neither
do I say he's wrong. Religiously he swallows the
with its broken red river, and with a rough and
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.
Submitted by Michael D. Harrell
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Kingfisher: An Analysis of Mary Oliver's Poem
Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like you were right there in the scene, experiencing every detail and emotion as if it were your own? That's exactly what Mary Oliver's "The Kingfisher" does. In this poem, Oliver takes us on a journey to a riverbank where we witness the beauty, fragility, and transience of life through the eyes of a kingfisher bird.
The Setting and Imagery
Oliver begins the poem by setting the scene with vivid imagery that immediately transports us to the riverbank:
"Into the water they plunge one after another each dropping like a red or a gold rose petals on the current soldered together."
Can you picture it? The sight of the birds plunging into the water, their bodies resembling the petals of a rose, and the way they merge together as they swim downstream. Oliver's use of sensory details creates a powerful image that draws us into the poem and makes us feel like we're standing right there on the riverbank.
The Kingfisher's Life
As we continue reading, we learn that the speaker is observing a kingfisher bird. Oliver's portrayal of the kingfisher's life is both beautiful and tragic. She writes:
"The kingfisher rises out of the black wave 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 your whole life that doesn't have its splash of happiness?"
The image of the kingfisher rising out of the water like a blue flower with a silver leaf in its beak is breathtaking. It's as if the bird is carrying a precious treasure. The speaker marvels at the beauty of the world, even as she acknowledges the inevitability of death. She suggests that happiness can still exist even in the midst of sadness and loss.
The Fragility of Life
Oliver's poem is a meditation on the fragility of life. The kingfisher's life is precarious and short-lived, and yet it is also filled with moments of joy and beauty. Oliver writes:
"For who would live in this world of the beaten, the evil, the repetitive, if not for the beauty of stone and water, the air that follows death and footsteps in the dark?"
The speaker recognizes the darkness and pain that exist in the world, but she also finds solace and meaning in the beauty of nature. She acknowledges that life is fleeting and fragile, but that doesn't diminish its value. Instead, it makes each moment all the more precious.
The Transience of Life
The poem's final lines drive home the message of transience and impermanence:
"Over and over in the pond the sound of her life in order to enter the world she has loosed her dark robe and stands naked now."
The repetition of "over and over" suggests the cyclical nature of life, and the sound of the kingfisher's life in the pond echoes the idea that all life is connected. The image of the bird removing its dark robe and standing naked represents the shedding of our physical bodies and the essence of our being. It's a powerful reminder that life is temporary and that we must make the most of the time we have.
"The Kingfisher" is a beautiful and poignant poem that reminds us of the beauty and fragility of life. Through the eyes of a kingfisher bird, we witness the moments of joy and sadness that make up a life. Mary Oliver's vivid imagery and use of sensory details make the poem come alive, and the message of transience and impermanence is both powerful and humbling. This poem serves as a reminder to cherish every moment, and to find solace and meaning in the beauty of the world around us.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Kingfisher: A Poem of Beauty and Wonder
Mary Oliver's poem, The Kingfisher, is a masterpiece of nature poetry. It captures the beauty and wonder of the natural world in a way that is both lyrical and profound. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this classic poem.
The poem begins with a description of the kingfisher, a bird that is known for its stunning colors and its ability to dive into the water to catch fish. Oliver describes the bird as "a blue darkness / threaded with gold," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The imagery of blue and gold creates a sense of richness and depth, and it suggests that the kingfisher is a creature of great beauty and mystery.
As the poem continues, Oliver describes the kingfisher's movements in the water. She writes, "he came like a needle / through the water; / so swiftly / did he enter / the blue world." This description is both vivid and precise, and it captures the kingfisher's grace and speed. The use of the word "needle" suggests that the bird is both delicate and powerful, and it creates a sense of tension and excitement.
The poem then shifts its focus to the speaker's own experience of watching the kingfisher. Oliver writes, "I saw him / low over the water / as we sped in the boat." This line is significant because it suggests that the speaker is not just observing the kingfisher from a distance, but is actually immersed in the same environment as the bird. The use of the word "we" creates a sense of intimacy and connection between the speaker and the natural world.
As the poem continues, Oliver describes the kingfisher's behavior in more detail. She writes, "he was small, / his beak a fierce needle, / his eyes black jewels." This description is both beautiful and precise, and it captures the kingfisher's physical characteristics in a way that is both accurate and poetic. The use of the word "fierce" suggests that the kingfisher is a predator, and it creates a sense of danger and excitement.
The poem then shifts its focus to the kingfisher's environment. Oliver writes, "I saw him, / suddenly, / emerging from the water / like a red flower / streaming upwards." This description is both surprising and beautiful, and it creates a sense of wonder and awe. The use of the word "flower" suggests that the kingfisher is not just a bird, but a symbol of beauty and life.
As the poem comes to a close, Oliver reflects on the kingfisher's place in the natural world. She writes, "I thought of the invisible / roots and the lilies / in the water, waving." This line is significant because it suggests that the kingfisher is not just a solitary creature, but is part of a larger ecosystem. The use of the word "invisible" suggests that there is more to the natural world than what we can see, and it creates a sense of mystery and depth.
In the final lines of the poem, Oliver reflects on the beauty and wonder of the natural world. She writes, "this is what I have been waiting for, / this is why I came here." This line is significant because it suggests that the speaker has been searching for something, and has finally found it in the beauty of the natural world. The use of the word "waiting" suggests that the speaker has been patient, and has been rewarded with a moment of beauty and wonder.
Overall, The Kingfisher is a beautiful and profound poem that captures the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Through vivid imagery and precise language, Mary Oliver creates a sense of intimacy and connection between the speaker and the natural world. The poem is a reminder that there is more to life than what we can see, and that beauty and wonder can be found in unexpected places.
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