Anora Sutherland – The Night I Heard Mary Oliver on the Radio

June 30, 2014 | By | 20 Replies More

It was a non-descript night

On long roads between forests

Unlit, I’d been driving for hours.


Came a poet’s voice on the radio

Grabbed my heart

And didn’t let go.


If I were walking

I’d be stopping.

As I was driving,

My breath faltered.



Like stepping out into a

Massachusetts winter,

Cheek smacking,

Lip cracking,

Eye drying,



The poet named a truth

So bold

I froze.


In a voice so clear,

She lit up the night,


And keeps it lit still.



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Category: Knowing, United States of America

Comments (20)

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  1. Those are such incredible moments! You describe it so beautifully. It is how I felt the first time I heard Maya Angelou read.

  2. Beautiful words. I too love Mary Oliver, you defined the moment so well.

    • When Women Waken says:

      Thank you for appreciating the poem and leaving a note Tess! You’re kind to do so! – Anora

  3. Nosipho Gumede says:

    I love this, ESPECIALLY the end when you say: “keeps it lit still”. Having a poet KEEP moving you through their work is wonderful!

    • When Women Waken says:

      Thank you for reading this poem Nosipho! That last line I am always wavering on – keeps it lit for years, vs. keeps it lit still. Either way – the permanence of the poet’s impact is there. Years has a clearer rhyme, and “still” rhymes with something but it eludes me where.

  4. Kerry Holjes says:

    “The poet named a truth/so bold/I froze.” Could anyone ask anything more from a poem—stirring a listener to freeze with comprehension and then feeling the words illuminate the darkness? Anora, you’ve captured the feel of that moment so totally.

  5. As a lover of Oliver’s poetry, I can only say, “amen.”

    • When Women Waken says:

      Thank you for visiting Sally. She’s a powerful poet isn’t she. But I haven’t seen any political poems, only familiar with the nature and human experience ones. You, on the other hand, go bravely other arenas. — Anora

  6. Wendy Webb says:

    I just love your line: “a poet’s voice grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go” – I feel that way often with great poetry, and you captured the sensation perfectly! Well done…

  7. Andrea Potos says:

    I give credit to one of Mary Oliver’s poems for “saving” my life, so I can so appreciate this one. The spare language and short lines give it that much more impact and resonance in the body.


  8. Terri Hadley Ward says:

    I love the rhythm of this poem, how the structure of the lines and the language echo the poet’s experience with simplicity, power, and grace. Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets, and I felt in this poem the leap of my soul in response to Mary Oliver’s poetry.

  9. Tricia Knoll says:

    This is the way it is sometimes on our highways at night and the radio voice has something to say.

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