Inspiration comes from so many places– nature, music, stories, crafts, artwork– but I find that my most consistent source of soul-soothing inspiration comes from poetry. Here’s a poem my anxious-for-the-future-self really needed to read recently. I love it to bits and hope you do, too:

by Mary Oliver

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?


I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
    where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
    I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life;  I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.


Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?



the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.


You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story–
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.


And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.


And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

A spiny dogfish shark. Photo credit here.

I love so much about this poem: the message, the fact that I totallygetwhatshe’ssaying, the way the poet plays with line breaks, her beautiful imagery (“like the part of the song where it falls down over the rocks”; “I want to listen to the enormous waterfalls of the sun”), and how every word is so carefully chosen, specifically placed. That’s part of why I love poetry: the carefulness of it. It makes you slow down, stop, pay attention, feel the rhythm of the words, savor their meaning…What inspires you?


2 thoughts on “Inspiration

  1. For me I am inspired by good art, and nature. There's something about them that just really pulls me in. I completely understand where you are coming from with this poem, it's beautiful!



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