Mary Oliver Questions and Answers

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How would you analyze the poem "Summer Day" by Mary Oliver?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This poem seems to take as its subject something quotidian, a mere grasshopper, but the speaker's musings on the grasshopper lead her to bigger ideas regarding life's transience and beauty. She marvels over the minute precision of the grasshopper until line 11, and, at that point, she begins to enlarge her purpose. Although she may not "know exactly what a prayer is," she does know

how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed.

In other words, the speaker knows how to appreciate creation, how to enjoy nature, and how to forget everything else in this enjoyment. She may not kneel beside her bed at night, but she kneels in the grass and feels "blessed." This is how she prays, and she wonders, "What else should [she] have done?" What better way could she have spent her time? She has accomplished what prayer is so often meant to, and she's recognized the beauty of life and how quickly it ends. Finally, the speaker asks,

Tell...

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