In her poem, "When Death Comes," Mary Oliver expresses what seems to be her credo: "When it's over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms." This Pulitzer Prize-winning poet has written 11 books of poetry and four collections of essays, and they are all filled with amazement. She comes to the natural world with wonder and curiosity and is always open to the spiritual teachings that emanate from flowers, birds, frogs, butterflies, and other beings.
Thomas W. Mann, minister for 20 years of Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, appreciates this poet as one who tutors us in the gift of reading nature as "the Other Book of God." Whereas many Christians have no trouble seeing the hand of the Creator in the natural world, they find it difficult to reverence the intrinsic holiness of animals, plants, and minerals. Oliver takes us into the "temple" of nature and helps us honor the beauty and the terror that is found there. She always keeps an open mind and heart and so her poetry does not slight the dark side of this reality where death and destructiveness happen every day.
Mann points out that the poet regards nature as her family an attitude the rest of us ought to adopt in our journeys into the wilderness. In chapters on earth-talk, attitude, flora and fauna, and animate inanima; the author uses illustrative material from Oliver's poems to convey the radical respect she has for dirt and the senses through which we draw closer to this mysterious world. Hopefully, Mann's enthusiasm for this gifted poet will spread to other preachers so that more of her works are read in churches and quoted in Sunday morning homilies.