'Poem (The spirit likes to dress up...)' by Mary Oliver
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likes to dress up like this:
shoulders, and all the rest
in the black branches,
in the morning
in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather
plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,
and the dark hug of time,
to be understood,
to be more than pure light
where no one is --
so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;
and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Poem (The spirit likes to dress up...)" by Mary Oliver
What is the essence of poetry? Beyond the words and the structure lies the heart of the art form. Mary Oliver, one of the most celebrated poets of the modern era, understood this better than most. In her poem "The spirit likes to dress up..." she delves deep into the soul of poetry and what it means to be human.
A closer look at the poem
The poem begins with the line "The spirit likes to dress up like this", immediately setting a tone of wonder and mysticism. The word "spirit" is a loaded term, encompassing everything from the divine to the intangible. Oliver uses this term to suggest that there is something within us that is beyond our immediate understanding, something that yearns for expression.
She goes on to describe what this spirit is like when it dresses up: "ten fingers, ten toes, / shoulders, and all the rest / at night / in the black branches, in the morning / in the blue branches / of the world." This description is both specific and vague, painting a picture of a body but also hinting at something beyond physical form. The branches of the world are both tangible and intangible, suggesting that the spirit exists in both realms simultaneously.
Oliver continues: "It could float, of course, / but would rather / plumb rough matter." Here she acknowledges that the spirit exists in a realm beyond the physical, but prefers to exist in the tangible world. This might suggest that the physical world is where we can most easily express ourselves and connect with others, even if the spirit exists beyond that realm.
The poem then takes a bit of a turn, with Oliver describing the spirit as "a lion / or a torn leaf / or a dolphin." Here she suggests that the spirit can take on any form, can be anything it wants to be. This is a powerful concept, as it implies that there are no limits to what we can create, no boundaries to our expression.
The poem concludes with the lines "Graceful / and dreamy, / the words / that are made of silk." Here Oliver ties everything together, suggesting that the spirit expresses itself through language, through poetry. The words that are made of silk suggest a softness, a gentleness, an elegance that is in contrast to the rough matter that the spirit prefers to plumb.
Analysis and interpretation
So what does this all mean? At its core, "The spirit likes to dress up..." is a meditation on the nature of poetry and the human spirit. Mary Oliver suggests that poetry is a way for us to express something beyond the physical, to tap into the intangible and bring it into the world.
The poem also suggests that there is a duality to our existence. We exist in both the physical and the intangible, and both are necessary for us to express ourselves fully. The physical world gives us a medium through which to express ourselves, while the intangible world is where our true essence lies.
Finally, "The spirit likes to dress up..." suggests that there are no limits to human expression. We can be anything we want to be, create anything we want to create. This is a powerful concept, as it suggests that the only thing holding us back is ourselves.
In the end, "The spirit likes to dress up..." is a beautiful and powerful poem that speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human. Mary Oliver's words are both specific and vague, painting a picture of a world beyond our immediate understanding. It is a poem that invites us to explore the depths of our spirits, to express ourselves fully and without reservation. In short, it is a poem that reminds us of the power and the beauty of poetry itself.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions, inspire, and challenge our perspectives. Mary Oliver, an American poet, is known for her profound and insightful poems that explore the beauty and complexity of nature, spirituality, and the human experience. One of her most celebrated poems is "Poem (The spirit likes to dress up...)".
In this 24-line poem, Oliver invites the reader to contemplate the nature of the spirit and its relationship with the physical world. The poem begins with the line "The spirit likes to dress up like this" which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The word "likes" suggests that the spirit has a preference or a desire, and the phrase "dress up" implies that the spirit is putting on a costume or a disguise.
Oliver then goes on to describe the different ways in which the spirit likes to dress up. She writes, "ten fingers, ten toes, / shoulders, and all the rest / at night / in the black branches, in the morning / in the blue branches / of the world." Here, Oliver is suggesting that the spirit likes to inhabit the physical body, with all its imperfections and limitations. The use of the natural imagery of "black branches" and "blue branches" creates a sense of connection between the spirit and the natural world.
The poem then takes a more introspective turn as Oliver writes, "It could float, of course, / but would rather / plumb rough matter." Here, Oliver is suggesting that the spirit could exist in a formless state, but it chooses to inhabit the physical world because it finds meaning and purpose in the challenges and struggles of life. The phrase "plumb rough matter" suggests that the spirit is willing to delve deep into the complexities and difficulties of life.
Oliver then writes, "Airy and shapeless thing, / it needs / the metaphor of the body, / lime and appetite, / the oceanic fluids; / it needs the body's world, / instinct / and imagination / and the dark hug of time, / sweetness / and tangibility, / to be understood, / to be more than pure light / that burns / where no one is." Here, Oliver is suggesting that the spirit needs the physical body and the physical world to be fully understood and appreciated. The use of the metaphor of the body, lime, appetite, oceanic fluids, instinct, imagination, and time creates a sense of the richness and complexity of the physical world.
Oliver then concludes the poem with the line, "So it enters us - / in the morning / shines from brute comfort / like a stitch of lightning; / and at night / lights up the deep and wondrous / drownings of the body / like a star." Here, Oliver is suggesting that the spirit enters us, inhabits us, and illuminates our experiences. The use of the metaphor of lightning and star creates a sense of the power and beauty of the spirit.
Overall, "Poem (The spirit likes to dress up...)" is a profound and insightful poem that invites the reader to contemplate the nature of the spirit and its relationship with the physical world. Oliver suggests that the spirit likes to inhabit the physical body and the physical world because it finds meaning and purpose in the challenges and struggles of life. The poem celebrates the richness and complexity of the physical world and suggests that the spirit needs the physical world to be fully understood and appreciated.
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