These lines from Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes” took on new meaning when I read them on the afternoon of January 17, 2019. I’d read the poem before, but time has a way of changing your perception of what you read. In this case, I was re-reading one of Oliver’s most well-known poems about mortality just hours after learning that she, my favorite poet, had died from lymphoma at the age of 83.
The timing was eerie, too. Around the same time last week, I started working on a similar tribute to my favorite author of all time, Ursula K. Le Guin, who had recently passed away. (Oliver died 5 days before the first anniversary of Le Guin’s passing.) So, naturally, I’ve been drawing comparisons between the relationships I have with their work. And I remembered one difference that might surprise some people: While Le Guin’s stories resonated with me right away, it took a few years for me – a fantasy fan and a poet in equal measure – to fall in love with Oliver’s poems.