Date of Submission

Spring 2021

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Alex Benson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019) once wrote, “Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report.” How does Oliver teach the practice of paying attention to the natural world? This project explores observation as a form of attention in Oliver’s work and how it is implicit in her writing practice. The relationship between attention and feeling manifests in her poetry. Observations are both the foundation and definition of Oliver’s concrete images and incommunicable encounters with nonhumans in the natural world. For Oliver, the goal of attention is not to give a scientific account of details about specific animals or landscapes because that would prescribe limits to the imaginations of a poem’s speaker and reader. She suggests that one’s observations are a choice. Attention does not have to be a “report” if one gets to set the terms. I examine this idea by looking at the line in poetry. I focus on beginnings, line-breaks, and the possibilities of community between animals and humans as areas of interest in Oliver’s poetry.

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Open Access

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