NaPoMo, Day 5: August

Day 5 of NaPoMo brings us over the reading-week hill with Mary Oliver, Rumi, and others. Here is today’s featured poem:


by Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.


This is another poem with ripe, tangible language that recalls for me “The Word Plum” by Helen Chasin. I have written about the texture of words, but this poem is perhaps the best so far for showing it: hang, brambles, black honey of summer; dark, thick paw, happy tongue. These words roll like a delicious elixir, a summer pudding, and underscore the subject of the poem itself: blackberries! When someone says “a picture is worth a thousand words” I want to show them words like this, like in “August,” that paint subjects in a whole new dimension via speech, via tongue, via the play of sound in our mouths.

Here is today’s complete reading selection. As always, favorites are starred. The first three are dark and rough, but very well done, and the Rumi somewhat religious but deliciously sage.

From The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 2: Contemporary, third edition

  1. “The Fly” by Karl Shapiro*
  2. “The Boy Died in My Alley” by Gwendolyn Brooks*
  3. “Gyroscope” by Howard Nemerov*
  4. “The Thought-Fox” by Ted Hughes
  5. “August” by Mary Oliver (see above)*

From Teachings of Rumi compiled by Andrew Harvey

  1. “Return at Last”
  2. “Measuring Out the Sugar”*
  3. “You Are the Macrocosm”*

From Rumi: Fragments, Ecstasies translated by Daniel Liebert

  1. One* (“The flute weeps / to the pacing drum”)
  2. Fourteen** (“As your sword / comes down on my neck”)

Stay tuned for two more days of reading and good poetry. Next week I start the transcriptions!


7 thoughts on “NaPoMo, Day 5: August

  1. I really love poetry. I appreciate your thoughts on it. I keep thinking one day I will take a class and immerse myself in it, but it hasn’t happened yet…so keep teaching me with your comments! And thanks, very very much! 🙂

    • You’re most welcome (and thank YOU for reading!). I am happy to share my thoughts and what I have learned, but I am by no means an expert…I hope you’ll find occasion to take that poetry class you’re craving. Trust me, you will see the world through another lens! 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed this poem and I like that you’ve tied it to one of my absolute favorite poems “the word plum.” I actually wrote a paper in college about Chasin’s poem and the use of imagery, connotation, assonance and alliteration to not only describe the plum but to draw on sexuality and desire with the sounds that the words make. This poem also subtly alludes to the body and the desires we can have by something as simple as wild berries. (I often find myself seeking out the sexual and impulse side of poetry, not sure what that says about me…) I love the line “the black honey of summer.” simply fantastic! thank you for sharing, I will certainly be looking to more of Mary Oliver’s work.

    • Oooh, great observation about fruit and sexuality. I never noticed that as a recurring construction before, but I bet I will now!

      I also enjoyed “the black honey of summer”– my favorite line from this poem, I think. I’m glad you enjoyed “August” and I hope you’ll enjoy other Mary Oliver poems even more!

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