Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who is known for her beautiful and intimate descriptions of the natural world.

Her work often focuses on themes of nature, love, and loss.

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Oliver’s writing is simple and accessible, but it is also deep and profound.

Her poems often make readers feel as though they are experiencing the world in a new and fresh way.

We have curated the best inspiring quotations from Mary Oliver to make your day!


Top 10 Mary Oliver Quotes

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“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Look, hasn’t my body already felt like the body of a flower?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Best Mary Oliver Quotes

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.” ~ (Mary Oliver).
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“Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“It’s morning, and again I am that lucky person who is in it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Praying It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“And I say to my heart: rave on.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Attention is the beginning of devotion.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“All eternity is in the moment.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Top Mary Oliver Quotes

Mary Oliver is a well-known American poet and non-fiction author who has received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her works "American Primitive" and "House of Light."

“There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Things take the time they take. don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“My work is loving the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I got saved by poetry and I got saved by the beauty of the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Come with me into the woods where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Look, I want to love this world as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get to be alive and know it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Don’t we all die someday and someday comes all too soon? What will you do with your own wild, glorious chance at this thing we call life.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Wherever I am, the world comes after me. It offers me its busyness. It does not believe that I do not want it. Now I understand why the old poets of China went so far and high into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Each body is a lion of courage, something precious of the earth.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Famous Mary Oliver Quotes

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“It is what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Maybe the world, without us, is the real poem.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The sea is the most beautiful face in our universe.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attention.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“If you have ever gone into the woods with me, I must love you very much.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone. When I’m alone I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing. If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I simply do not distinguish between work and play.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Every adjective and adverb is worth five cents. Every verb is worth fifty cents.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you’re working a few hours a day and you’ve got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you’re okay.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, Stay awhile.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money, I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn’t need any more of that sound.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Today I am altogether without ambition. Where did I get such wisdom?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Music: what so many sentences aspire to be.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love and the ability to question. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled – to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“I want to believe I am looking into the white fire of a great mystery.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The dream of my life is to lie down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees – to learn something by being nothing.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I saw that worrying had come to nothing and gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Attention without feeling – is only a report.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You, too, can be carved anew by the details of your devotion.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“You must not ever stop being whimsical.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Popular Mary Oliver Quotes

“When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Like Magellan, let us find our islands To die in, far from home, from anywhere Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places, Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Always there is something worth saying about glory, about gratitude.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dak trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more the prettiness.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests of our lives.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“There is a notion that creative people are absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true for they are in another world altogether.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I try to be good but sometimes a person just has to break out and act like the wild and springy thing one used to be. It’s impossible not to remember wild an want it back.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Of course! The path to heaven doesn’t lie down in flat miles. It’s in the imagination with which you perceive this world, and the gestures with which you honor it.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The face of the moose is as sad as the face of Jesus.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I have a notebook with me all the time, and I begin scribbling a few words. When things are going well, the walk does not get anywhere; I finally just stop and write.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“When I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Love, love, love, says Percy. And hurry as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust. Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart. Then, trust.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Inspiring Mary Oliver Quotes

“The world is: fun, and familiar, and healthful, and unbelievably refreshing, and lovely. And it is the theater of the spiritual; it is the multiform utterly obedient to a mystery.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing, but looking, and touching, and loving.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Today again I am hardly myself. It happens over and over.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I wanted to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know, whoever I was, I was alive for a little while.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from wherever you are, to look for your soul?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“What can we do but keep on breathing in and out, modest and willing, and in our places?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“So every day So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The sea isn’t a place but a fact, and a mystery…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Oh, yesterday, that one, we all cry out. Oh, that one! How rich and possible everything was! How ripe, ready, lavish, and filled with excitement – how hopeful we were on those summer days, under the clean, white racing clouds. Oh, yesterday!” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Inspirational Mary Oliver Quotes

“Every word is a messenger. Some have wings; some are filled with fire; some are filled with death.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The man who has many answers is often found in the theaters of information where he offers, graciously, his deep findings. While the man who has only questions, to comfort himself, makes music.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“In the glare of your mind, be modest. And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider the orderliness of the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“In college, you learn how to learn. Four years is not too much time to spend at that.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“When When it’s over, it’s over, and we don’t know any of us, what happens then. So I try not to miss anything. I think, in my whole life, I have never missed The full moon or the slipper of its coming back. Or, a kiss. Well, yes, especially a kiss.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Far off in the red mangroves an alligator has heaved himself onto a hummock of grass and lies there, studying his poems.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Powerful Mary Oliver Quotes

“Sunrise What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us? Call it whatever you want, it is happiness, it is another one of the ways to enter fire.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood. How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of the lambs. How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“But how did you come burning down like a wild needle, knowing just where my heart was?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The three ingredients of poetry: the mystery of the universe, spiritual curiosity, the energy of language.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“We can know a lot. And still, no doubt, there are rash and wonderful ideas brewing somewhere; there are many surprises yet to come.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“My work is the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Almost anything is too much. I am trying in my poems to have the reader be the experiencer. I do not want to be there. It is not even a walk we take together.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Motivational Mary Oliver Quotes

“Isn’t it wonderful the way the world holds both the deeply serious, and the unexpectedly mirthful?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“How shall I touch you unless it is everywhere?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I feel the terror of idleness, like a red thirst. Death isn’t just an idea.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I worked probably 25 years by myself, just writing and working, not trying to publish much, not giving readings.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“Walks work for me. I enter some arena that is neither conscious or unconscious.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“People want poetry. They need poetry. They get it. They don’t want fancy work.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“What can we do about God, who makes and then breaks every god-forsaken, beautiful day?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“The god of dirt came up to me many times and said so many wise and delectable things, I lay on the grass listening to his dog voice, frog voice; now, he said, and now, and never once mentioned forever from, One or Two Things.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

Beautiful Mary Oliver Quotes

“I climb, I backtrack. I float. I ramble my way home.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Do you love this world? Do you cherish your humble and silky life? Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“He is exactly the poem I wanted to write.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“And over one more set of hills, along the sea, the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness and are giving it back to the world. If I had another life I would want to spend it all on some unstinting happiness.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Also I wanted to be able to love And we all know how that one goes, don’t we? Slowly.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“I don’t know lots of things but I know this: next year when spring flows over the starting point I’ll think I’m going to drown in the shimmering miles of it…” ~ (Mary Oliver).

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“A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Every year everything I have ever learned in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side is salvation.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“As a child, what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other.” ~ (Mary Oliver).

“Every morning I walk like this around the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead.” ~ (Mary Oliver).



Facts about Mary Oliver

What is Mary Oliver known for?

Oliver’s poetry is deeply anchored in location and the Romantic nature tradition, with clear and emotional insights and evocative use of the natural environment.

When Mary Oliver was born?

Mary Oliver was born in Maple Heights, Ohio, on September 10, 1935.


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