“In Blackwater Woods” is a beautiful free verse poem about life and letting it go. The poem written by the renowned author Mary Oliver was first published in 1983 in her collection American Primitive, which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize.
Oliver’s poetry is known for its clear and poignant observations and evocative use of the natural world. Her works is firmly rooted in place and the Romantic nature tradition. “In Blackwater Woods” she uses imagery of nature to tell a vivid story about the human experience of life, loss, and death.
In Black water Woods”
Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars
of light, are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfillment,
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders
of the ponds, and every pond, no matter what its name is, is
nameless now. Every year everything I have ever learned
in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side
is salvation, whose meaning none of us will ever know. To live in this world
you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it
against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.