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.
“In a region that has produced most of the nation’s poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world. Her “Wild Geese” has become so popular it now graces posters in dorm rooms across the land. But don’t hold that against her. Read almost anything in New and Selected Poems. She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.”
—Renée Loth, Boston Globe