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Breanna Coon / Her Campus
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Blue Horses: The Best Book to Snuggle Up With This Weekend

As pandemic-life has mostly eliminated indoor gatherings, a look back at Mary Oliver’s 2014 poetry collection, Blue Horses, reminds us what’s so lovely about the outdoors— even in a socially isolated world. 

Every poem in this collection is incredibly evocative of the beauty of nature. Reading Oliver’s work makes me feel everything so deeply and profoundly, and one can tell that she feels it all the same. Her words are clear and never shallow, Oliver knows what she wants to convey and exactly how to do so. She illuminates both the beauty and the ugliness found within nature and, by proxy, within us.

Oliver’s depictions of nature evoke a sense of spirituality that seemingly blurs the lines between man and nature, between physical and spiritual. These blurred lines are perhaps most prominent in the eponymous poem,  titled “Blue Horses,” where Oliver describes the fantastical experience of entering the painting of the same name by Franz Marc. The poem examines the coexistence of both beauty and atrocity and humanity and nature, and her personal desire—and inability—to keep these things apart. 

Oliver allows space for understanding and peace, undisturbed by the complications of speaking, she says of the horses: “I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t. / If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what / could they possibly say?” Perhaps one of the most striking moments is the speculation: “Maybe the desire to make something beautiful / is the piece of God that is inside each of us.” The common thread of spirituality through all living things allows for peaceful, silent coexistence; after all, “what [else] / could they possibly say?” 

In a poem titled “Drifting,” Oliver describes a walk in the rain and all the thoughts that drift through her head. After sharing that she “didn’t intend to start thinking about God,” she notes that while “God, or the gods, are invisible … holiness is visible entirely.” Then, turning on a dime, she discusses the “terrible importance” of clouds and how “next week the violets will be blooming.” These meandering, inconsequential thoughts spark interest and bring meaning to mundane moments, giving room for discovery where one would least expect it. 

Oliver takes note of this toward the poem’s end, saying, “Anyway, this was my delicious walk in the rain. / What was it actually about?” The answer, she seems to suggest, is both all around us and within us. Maybe the answer isn’t even what matters, Oliver’s words make me feel that even my most abstract and random thoughts have an immeasurable value.

In a word: brilliant. I could go through every poem, but you need to read it for yourself. Every line of every piece evokes similarly strong meaning and feeling. Grab a copy (preferably from an independent bookstore) and curl up with it on a picnic blanket in Central Park –you won’t be disappointed.

Hi! My name is Monique Ezeh and I attend NYU, where I’m majoring in Politics with a double minor in Creative Writing and Journalism. I’ve long considered myself a storyteller and a self-proclaimed “truth-teller” (as pretentious as that sounds). I write about many things, some lighthearted and some not, but my passion for activism influences much of my work. When I'm not writing, you can probably find me binging movies under Netflix's "cerebral" tag, crying about Audre Lorde, or baking banana bread (or all 3-- I can multitask)! You can check out some of my work at https://linktr.ee/moniqueezeh !
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