Julie Brooks-Barbour participated in a discussion on the 32 Poems Facebook page about favorite poems. This developed into a brief essay about Mary Oliver’s “Singapore” posted on the 32 Poems blog. Here’s an excerpt.
“Though the title is important in defining place and how we, as readers, might visualize the woman in the poem, I think that is where its significance ends. Since the woman we meet through the speaker never utters a word, acting as a silent movie character, she could very well be any woman cleaning any airport anywhere in the world. What is most significant is the way in which the speaker argues against how the larger culture has taught her to treat a janitor or anyone working a job that would make her cringe, and how she accepts this woman as part of the world, as a human among humans, in the only way she knows how: through a poem.” Read the rest.
“Mary Oliver ranks among the finest poets the English language has ever produced. Whether she’s describing a caterpillar’s transformation…or describing her own mystical connection to birdsong…she almost always can come up with striking, resonant images.…Oliver observes with great sensitivity, and puts her impressions in verse in a way that few can match…her poetry is rigorous, beautiful, well written, and offers genuine insights into the natural world.”
—Eli Lehrer, The Weekly Standard