Mary Oliver came from an unhappy home life complete with a sexually abusive father and a neglectful mother. From a very young age, she began wondering the woods, with Walden in her backpack, exploring and trying to escape her home life. To this day, she claims she doesn’t care for the enclosure of buildings. With this in mind, her choice of writing almost universally writing her poetry about nature should be no surprise.
Many different themes and subjects are touched upon in Mary Oliver’s poetry, however the underlying themes throughout her poetry is of nature and its deep connection to.
She compares and contrasts the ideal state of nature to the messiness and imperfections of humans. Her sporadic disconnect with humans, stems directly from her child hood and all the things she tried to escape as a child in the woods with Walden.
Her love for nature and her comfort with nature is also illuminated in her life through her constant requirement of having a dog. She has said, “Dogs are the perfect companion…They don’t speak!”.
Although, she only talks in a positive way about people when there is nature involved. She insists that a person is made better by nature and that when one is lost, nature will help them find not only their way again, but themselves. Dogs, in Mary Oliver’s eyes, are the perfect companion nature has provided for humans. This again, stems directly from her childhood upbringing. She found herself, when she was younger, in the woods, where she felt most comfortable. Her childhood continues to mold her adult hood, especially in her poetry.