Poetry Picks: 'The Wren from Carolina' by Mary Oliver

Like much of Mary Oliver’s work, The Wren from Carolina  (text below) speaks to that voice inside all of us that cries out on occasion in soft gratefulness: for the first signs of spring, or the unspoken kind gesture, or perhaps for the comfort of a great book on one’s lap. This poem always makes me appreciative of “my own cup of gladness” that is new each morning, even when it feels out of reach. I imagine the puffed up, feathered yellow breast of a Carolina Wren as he prepares to sing his morning praises to the world around him, and I try to emulate him in my own way.

You can find this poem inside Mary’s Oliver’s Why I Wake Early collection. I recommend also listening to Mary Oliver speak about her life and poetry in this episode of the podcast On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett.

And remember that you, too, are an invention of holiness, rascally or otherwise. Happy National Poetry Month to you and yours. 


The Wren From Carolina

by Mary Oliver


Just now the wren from Carolina buzzed

through the neighbor’s hedge

a line of grace notes I couldn’t even write down

much less sing. 


Now he lifts his chestnut colored throat

and delivers such a cantering praise–

for what?


For the early morning, the taste of the spider, 

for his small cup of life

that he drinks from every day, knowing it will refill.


All things are inventions of holiness.

Some more rascally than others. 

I’m on that list too,

though I don’t know exactly where.


But, every morning, there is my own cup of gladness,

and there’s that wren in the hedge, above me,

with his blazing song.