“Wild Geese” and technical exercises

Mary Oliver once said in an interview that her famous poem, Wild Geese, was written as an exercise in stopped lines. It is really quite remarkable as it is such tender writing and has touched people in very turbulent places. Many times you write to practice a technique, and then precede to throw it out. But sometimes the words and motives align.

Here is the poem.

Wild Geese (Mary Oliver)

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.                         

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.