From the Archives: ‘Moccasin Flowers,’ a Poem by Mary Oliver

Oliver celebrates the beautiful fervor of life in the face of oblivion with characteristically simple and poignant verse.

Dean Fosdick / AP

Mary Oliver’s poetry, frequently featured in the magazine in the 1980s and ’90s, evokes other generations of Atlantic contributors whom she grew up reading and admiring. With her reverent communion with the natural world, she recalls the transcendentalist musings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; with her tender expressions of joy and melancholy, the impassioned verse of Walt Whitman. But her writing also possessed an unassuming insight, a simplicity of expression, and a depth of feeling that was particular to her, and that made her one of the country’s best-selling poets for years before she died this January.

“Moccasin Flowers,” published in the magazine’s June 1987 issue, captures all those qualities, celebrating the beautiful fervor of life in the face of oblivion’s “deep drowse.” — Annika Neklason