In This World: poetry podcast #3

Yes, the poetry podcasts just keep coming! Below, you’ll find a podcast about . . . well, you’ll just have to listen to find out.

OK, here it is—just press play to listen:

Please let me know if you have any technical difficulties listening!
{To listen to my other poetry podcasts, click here}

Interesting thing: I was just searching online for the poem I read in this podcast, and it looks like Mary Oliver wrote two poems called “The Swan,” and the other one is more findable, so here is the poem typed out for you. I found this poem in her book Winter Hours, although I think it may have been published in prior collections.

The Swan
by Mary Oliver

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 the 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?

If you like Mary Oliver’s poetry, I would like to recommend my favorite volume of hers (that I’ve read so far) it’s called White Pine. This poem is not in that volume, but every poem in the book is an absolute celebration of life!

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4 Responses to “In This World: poetry podcast #3”


  1. 1 Clara December 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks, Nicole. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry too. White Pine was the first of her collections that I read. Thanks for sharing The Swan.

  2. 2 Kerri December 28, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Wow, I love those words – “a slim and delicate ship, filled with white flowers” that Mary uses to describe the swan. Such a gift to be able to see the world in such a unique way. I honour the world by being present to it’s beauty as much as I can. I try to take the beauty of the world into myself in those moments in a reverent way. I was just thinking the other day how the older I get the more astonished I am by the mysterious beauty of the world. I think in order to be an artist you have to have some part of yourself that is always open and unprotected, ready to receive. As a child I always felt like I had no barrier between myself and the world, everything touched me. It frightened me, I felt too much. Now I realise this is an immense gift and the only way to really be awake and present in my life. Thank you for sharing this poem, I had read the other swan poem (which I also love) but this was new to me.

  3. 3 COC January 25, 2012 at 4:11 am

    The Swan by Mary Oliver – just an interpretation

    The swan comes bearing the gift of life, full to the brim. But the Swan is a very powerful and dangerous animal – I can’t help feeling the reverberations of WB Yeats’s “Leda andThe Swan” and the rape by the Swan of Leda resulting in the birth of Helen and the violence that surrounded her at the Battle of Troy. Mary Oliver’s Swan “turns its dark eyes ” as it approaches and ” rearranges the clouds of its wings” and trails “its webbed foot.” It is not a passive presence – it is coming with a purpose and is not to be ignored.

    I love the layout of the verses as the Swan floats ripple by ripple – a slow build up to a climax. I love the repetition, the alliteration, the use of colour, the image of a ship to shore, the relationship between the poet and the swan.

    I have difficulty in interpreting the relationship between Mrs Blake and her husband and I think it is meant to be sending him up a bit. She is missing him as he, in lofty elevation, is too engrossed in living in his own Paradise, neglecting her. Why does she mention the poet Blake. Is it because Blake in his poetry swings between innocence and the lack of innocence, between ethereal loftiness and harsh reality. Is there some irony here? The Swan could be symbolic of her new lover, full of great energy and promise, getting closer and closer. The whole poem centres on what she will do on the arrival of the swan. What choice will she make? There is promise of ecstasy here but also an element of danger; the ecstacy of grabbing the moment but at a certain risk. Will the poet be overwhelmed by it all? Carpe diem.

    The title of this poem could be “The path to Heaven does not lie down in flat miles.”


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Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

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~Rumi

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

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