What are some of the themes found in Mary Oliver's poem "The Sunflowers"?

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kathik | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In Mary Oliver's beautiful poem, "The Sunflowers," she uses sunflowers as a metaphor for individuality and the desire for connection with others. From a distance, a field of sunflowers may look one big pool of "sameness," just as we may think of elderly people being all the same, but if we look closer-if we ask questions and hear the stories of those individuals- we find individual beauty.

"each of them, though it stands

in a crowd of many,

like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work

of turning their lives

into a celebration

is not easy." (Oliver ll. 26-32)

We need each other, and maybe especially as we get older. Often the elderly are ignored, but they have so much to share about their lives and their experiences from which the rest of us can learn and celebrate with them. When we truly attend to someone by listening to his/her story, he/she shines like that sunflower, "...bright faces, which follow the sun." (Oliver l.20)

The underlying themes are that everyone has something to offer, and everyone wants connection and love.