140 Mary Oliver Quotes

These Mary Oliver quotes are inspiring lines from her poetry and publications that give us many words to live by. From nature, love, inspiration, and hope—this list has it all.

So, if you’re looking for some motivational quotes that will push you to do your best for the day, then this collection is something you definitely have to check out.

Continue to the collection below.

Best Mary Oliver Quotes

Mary Oliver Quote - Listen - are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?Pin

1. “Listen—are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”

2. “You can have the other words—chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.”

3. “Hello, sun in my face. Hello, you who made the morning and spread it over the fields. Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”

4. “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Love yourself, then forget it. Then, love the world.Pin

5. “Love yourself, then forget it. Then, love the world.”

6. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

7. “You must not ever give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”

8. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”

9. “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

Mary Oliver Quote - I believe in kindness, also in mischief; also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.Pin

10. “I believe in kindness, also in mischief; also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”

11. “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”

12. “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

13. “Whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

14. “Ten times a day something happens to me like this—some strengthening throb of amazement, some good, sweet, empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest, and the wisest thing I know—that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”

Mary Oliver Quote - We are not wise, and not very often kind; and much can never be redeemed.Pin

15. “We are not wise, and not very often kind; and much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left.”

16. “It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.”

17. “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

18. “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning, in this broken world.”

19. “Poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

Mary Oliver Quotes on Hope

Mary Oliver Quote - I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned - that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion.Pin

20. “I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything—other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned—that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness, the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books, can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”

21. “And that is just the point—how the world, moist and beautiful, calls each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning, ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’”

22. “But I also say this—that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive.”

23. “There are things you can’t reach, but you can reach out to them, and all day long.”

24. “In the beginning, I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it. Before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.”

Mary Oliver Quote - And to tell the truth, I don't want to let go of the wrists of idleness.Pin

25. “And to tell the truth, I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness. I don’t want to sell my life for money. I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.”

26. “It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.”

27. “For some things, there are no wrong seasons—which is what I dream of for me.”

28. “Things take the time they take. Don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”

29. “After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.”

Mary Oliver Quote - May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe - tiny but useful.Pin

30. “May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe—tiny but useful.”

31. “I would say that there exists a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.”

32. “The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves—we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.”

33. “Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly, I know our part is not knowing; but looking, and touching, and loving.”

34. “Always, there is something worth saying about glory, about gratitude.”

Mary Oliver Quote - It is the nature of stone to be satisfied.Pin

35. “It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.”

36. “I too have known loneliness. I too have known what it is to feel misunderstood, rejected, and suddenly not at all beautiful. Oh, mother earth, your comfort is great, your arms never withhold. It has saved my life to know this. Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning. Oh, motions of tenderness!”

37. “This is to say nothing against afternoons, evenings, or even midnight. Each has its portion of the spectacular.”

38. “Dawn is a gift. Much is revealed about a person about his or her passion, or indifference, to this opening of the door of day. No one who loves dawn, and is abroad to see it, could be a stranger to me.”

39. “How could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?”

Mary Oliver Quotes on Love and Friendship

Mary Oliver Quote - So every day, I was surrounded by the beautiful, crying forth of the ideas of God - one of which was you.Pin

40. “So every day, I was surrounded by the beautiful, crying forth of the ideas of God—one of which was you.”

41. “I held my breath, as we do sometimes, to stop time when something wonderful has touched us.”

42. “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

43. “From the complications of loving you, I think there is no end or return. No answer, no coming out of it. Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?”

44. “Also, I wanted to be able to love, and we all know how that one goes, don’t we?”

Mary Oliver Quote - I know many lives worth living.Pin

45. “I know many lives worth living.”

46. “You may not agree, you may not care, but if you are holding this book you should know that of all the sights I love in this world—and there are plenty—very near the top of the list is this one: dogs without leashes.”

47. “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

48. “My work is the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums…”

49. “Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing—the reason they can fly.”

Mary Oliver Quote - When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included?Pin

50. “When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included?”

51. “There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?”

52. “There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled. Like telling someone you love them, or giving your money away—all of it. Your heart is beating, isn’t it? You’re not in chains, are you? There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even possibly, your own.”

53. “Every morning, I walk like this around the pond, thinking—if the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead.”

54. “The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list.”

Mary Oliver Quote - In this universe, we are given two gifts - the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Pin

55. “In this universe, we are given two gifts—the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.”

56. “You, too, can be carved anew by the details of your devotion.”

57. “My life without you would be a place of parched and broken trees.”

58. “If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”

59. “What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude.”

Mary Oliver Quote - I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it breaks open and never closes again to the rest of the world.Pin

60. “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it breaks open and never closes again to the rest of the world.”

61. “Even the most solitudinous of us is communal by habit, and indeed by commitment to the bravest of our dreams, which is to make a moral world.”

62. “And did you feel it in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life?”

63. “If I had another life, I would want to spend it all on some unstinting happiness.”

64. “Be ignited, or be gone.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Now, I am learning to rise above all that, learning the thin life, waking up simply to praise everything in this world that is strong and beautiful always.Pin

65. “You have broken my heart. Just as well. Now, I am learning to rise above all that, learning the thin life, waking up simply to praise everything in this world that is strong and beautiful always—the trees, the rocks, the fields, the news from heaven, the laughter that comes back all the same.”

66. “Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests of our lives.”

67. “Happiness isn’t a town on a map, or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work ongoing.”

68. “So, be slow if you must, but let the heart still play its true part. Love still as once you loved, deeply and without patience.”

69. “If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?”

Mary Oliver Quotes on Life and Inspiration

Mary Oliver Quote - He is exactly the poem I wanted to write.Pin

70. “He is exactly the poem I wanted to write.”

71. “When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement.”

72. “The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.”

73. “Do you love this world? Do you cherish your humble and silky life? Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?”

74. “Let me keep company always with those who say, ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Emerson, I am trying to live, as you said we must, the examined life.Pin

75. “Emerson, I am trying to live, as you said we must, the examined life. But there are days I wish there was less in my head to examine, not to speak of the busy heart.”

76. “What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”

77. “And it is exceedingly short, his galloping life. Dogs die so soon.”

78. “We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.”

79. “It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day.”

Mary Oliver Quote - A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life.Pin

80. “A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life.”

81. “And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes.”

82. “I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can’t really call being alive.”

83. “Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.”

84. “Listen, whatever you see and love—that’s where you are.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Poetry is a life-cherishing force.Pin

85. “Poetry is a life-cherishing force.”

86. “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

87. “The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.”

88. “Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves.”

89. “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me, the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”

Mary Oliver Quote - You must never stop being whimsical.Pin

90. “You must never stop being whimsical.”

91. “You can fool a lot of yourself, but you can’t fool the soul.”

92. “But literature, the best of it, does not aim to be literature. It wants and strives, beyond that artifact part of itself, to be a true part of the composite human record—that is, not words but a reality.”

93. “Sing if you can sing, and if not, still be musical inside yourself.”

94. “I have wrestled with the angel, and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.Pin

95. “Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.”

96. “Invention hovers always a little above the rules.”

97. “As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules. Sometimes, breaking the rules is just extending the rules. Sometimes, there are no rules.”

98. “When a man says he hears angels singing, he hears angels singing.”

99. “All eternity is in the moment.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Language is, in other words, not necessary, but voluntary.Pin

100. “Language is, in other words, not necessary, but voluntary.”

101. “The whirlwind of human behavior is not to be set aside.”

102. “Here is an amazement—once, I was twenty years old and in every motion of my body, there was a delicious ease; and in every motion of the green earth, there was a hint of paradise. And now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.”

103. “It’s very important to write things down instantly, or you can lose the way you were thinking out a line.”

104. “I’ll just leave you with this. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s enough to know that for some people, they exist, and that they dance.”

Mary Oliver Quote - There are as many worlds as there are imagineers.Pin

105. “There are as many worlds as there are imagineers.”

106. “All important ideas must include the trees, the mountains, and the rivers. To understand many things, you must reach out of your own condition.”

107. “The extraordinary is what art is about.”

108. “Only a heat so deeply and intelligently born can carry a new idea into the air.”

109. “I walk in the world to love it.”

Mary Oliver Quotes on Aging and Moving on

Mary Oliver Quote - Maybe death isn't darkness after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us.Pin

110. “Maybe death isn’t darkness after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us.”

111. “Said the river, ‘Imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.’”

112. “Every day, I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight—that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.”

113. “This isn’t a playground. This is earth, our heaven for a while. Therefore, I have given precedence to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods that hold you in the center of my world. And I say to my body, grow thinner still. And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song. And I say to my heart, rave on.”

114. “Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.”

Mary Oliver Quote - What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness to believe only in what can be proven.Pin

115. “What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness to believe only in what can be proven.”

116. “And now you’ll be telling stories of my coming back and they won’t be false, and they won’t be true, but they’ll be real.”

117. “I have my stories of that grief. No doubt, many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old—or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young.”

118. “The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely, as I can too. And so, no doubt can you, and you.”

119. “Sometimes, the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor.”

Mary Oliver Quote - With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me so many heavy coats.Pin

120. “With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them.”

121. “Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away. Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.”

122. “Look, hasn’t my body already felt like the body of a flower?”

123. “The face of the moose is as sad as the face of Jesus.”

124. “You are young, so you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But, listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.”

Mary Oliver Quote - Maybe it's about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you.Pin

125. “Maybe it’s about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you.”

126. “When death comes, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering—what it’s going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”

127. “Certainly, there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others.”

128. “This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.”

129. “Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing, and gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.”

Mary Oliver Quote - What's magical sometimes has deeper roots than reason.Pin

130. “What’s magical sometimes has deeper roots than reason.”

131. “Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do.”

132. “Then I remember—death comes before the rolling away of the stone.”

133. “Winter walks up and down the town swinging his censer, but no smoke or sweetness comes from it—only the sour, metallic frankness of salt and snow.”

134. “That time, I thought I could not go any closer to grief without dying. I went closer, and I did not die.”

Mary Oliver Quote - I swung the door open, and there was the wordless, singing world; and I ran for my life.Pin

135. “I swung the door open, and there was the wordless, singing world; and I ran for my life.”

136. “To live in this world, you must be able to do three things—to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go.”

137. “Over and over, in the butterfly, we see the idea of transcendence. In the forest, we see not the inert, but the aspiring. In water that departs forever and forever returns, we experience eternity.”

138. “There is only one question—how to love this world.”

139. “Let the path become where I choose to walk, and not otherwise established.”

Mary Oliver Quote - I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility.Pin

140. “I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility.”

Did These Quotes From Mary Oliver Make You Believe That Life Really Is What You Make of It?

Mary Oliver was a modern American poetess, described by the New York Times as ‘undoubtedly the bestselling poetess.’ Throughout her poems, we see a clear pattern filled with the inspiration she gathered from her daily walks. It is through her works that we’re able to see the little things that would often go unnoticed if we aren’t really focusing and paying attention. Mary Oliver gave us many words to live by—and through her, we learn that our lives are in our hands. It is only us that know what’s best for us and what we really want to achieve in life. So be open, be brave, and be accepting of who you really are. It is through this that we can cultivate the best versions of ourselves.

Which of these quotes are your favorites? Do you have other poets you’d like us to make a collection on? List them down below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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