Paulus reads Mary Oliver.

IMG_0514“We couldn’t have done it without the poets” In the film Paulus talks about the profound role poets and their work have played in his life. I remember him once telling me that poetry was “real food”. Paulus has memorized hundreds of poems in order to “embody” them. He also alters them on occasions to suit his own environment, a process he calls “kidnapping”. His deepest relationship is to the work of Mary Oliver, and the two have developed a wonderful friendship over the years. In the introduction to the film Mary reads from her poem ‘To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”:

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

(“To Begin With, the Sweet Grass” by Mary Oliver from ‘Evidence’ © Beacon, 2009) 

During the filming Paulus spoke often of Mary and read her poems to me. Here is a recording of him reciting from heart her wonderful poem “Goldenrod”.

And here is one of her better known poems and a personal favorite of mine, in particular the lines:
“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”

Here’s the whole poem

THE SWAN.

Across the wide waters
     
something comes
          
floating—a slim
             
and delicate



ship, filled
     
with white flowers—
          
and it moves
             
on its miraculous muscles



as though time didn’t exist,
     
as though bringing such gifts
          
to the dry shore
             
was a happiness



almost beyond bearing.
     
And now it turns its dark eyes,
          
it rearranges
             
the clouds of its wings,



it trails
     
an elaborate webbed foot,
          
the color of charcoal.
             
Soon it will be here.



Oh, what shall I do
     
when that poppy-colored beak
          
rests in my hand?
             
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:



I miss my husband’s company—
     
he is so often
         
in paradise.
            
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.
          
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
             
white wings
           
touch the shore?

(“The Swan” by Mary Oliver, from Winter Hours. © Houghton Mifflin, 1999.)

 

 

2 thoughts on “Paulus reads Mary Oliver.

  1. Glorious and good. Having just returned from the land of Mary Oliver and the goldenrod and “little dolls” of American Gold Finches at the feeders, this reading by Paulus is a gift. I believe as Paulus does, that we cannot do anything without poetry. It feeds our souls even when we don’t recognize hunger. xo S

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