Writing Dawn and Day in the Work of Mary Oliver and Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Contribution to Books

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Mary Oliver honors the legacy of Ralph Waldo Emerson by emphasizing the importance of paying attention to nature. Like him, she seeks an “original relation to the universe,” particularly in the morning scenes that abound in her poetry. Although she prefers ordinary epiphanies to Emerson’s ecstatic ones, she is no less devoted to the spiritual value of the natural world. By emphasizing dawn, she dramatizes the importance of interacting with the natural world in order to live a full and meaningful life. By exemplifying Ezra Pound’s claim that “the natural object is always the adequate symbol,” she shows her affiliation with the Emersonian tradition.

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