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Flare

Flare

by Mary Oliver

Natural Imagery

Symbol Analysis

It's everywhere, and it's the key to unlocking "Flare." This poem oozes with leaves, flowers, bugs, fields. If it's green and outdoors, this poem's got it. Why's our speaker such a nature lover? For her, appreciating nature is one and the same with appreciating your life. If you can't see beauty in the natural world, well, then you're a miserable lump in major need of some Outdoor Ed.

  • Section 1, Lines 2-12: When the speaker tells us all the things the poem is not, we couldn't help noticing that they're all things of nature. So either this poem is very unnatural (which fits, since it's human-made and all), or she's trying to show us that a poem can never be what it's describing. Poetry may be awesome, but it's not magic. 
  • Section 2, Lines 4-9: The speaker's description of the barn from her childhood memory (or is it our childhood memory) is peppered with natural images. There's the bird, the patient animals, the hay. And the way she describes these natural things makes the barn sound like a spiritual sanctuary, a place to find peace and rest. 
  • Section 3, Line 4: One way to deal with grief and suffering? Scatter flowers on the green grass that grows over the graves of whatever and whomever you've lost. Nature's the cure for emotional pain.
  • Section 4, Lines 1-6: The detailed description in the image of the moth tells us that this is a speaker who notices every minute detail in the natural world. Nothing gets past her. And she finds meaning in all of it, too.
  • Section 5, Lines 1-4: By connecting the memory of her mother to natural things they had at their home, the speaker creates a strong connection between emotions and nature. Her love for her mother goes hand in hand with her love for nature.
  • Section 7, Lines 1-4: What's this tiny little section about the ant doing in here? The speaker seems to think this little factoid is of utmost importance. We think that has to do with the fact that this ant has a major sweet tooth. It finds joy and pleasure in its world, rather than pain.
  • Section 8, Lines 3-4: The poem wants to flower? Fair enough. Flower away, poem. Flower away. The personification of the poem here is a nifty trick that further emphasizes the connection between nature (the flower), and emotions (as expressed in the poem).
  • Section 10, Line 3: The speaker describes the mind as "dark fields." This simile makes us think that while the mind can be connected to nature, it's not quite there yet. Something's keeping it in the dark.
  • Section 11, Line 5: Remember the speaker's memory of the barn way back in section 2? Yeah, that was bupkis. Really, it was a field full of blackbirds, or bobolinks. The metaphor here just goes to show—nature itself can be as emotionally rewarding as memory. So go get yourself some.
  • Section 12, Lines 1-10: Here the speaker doles out some Outdoor Ed: whenever we're feeling low (or lonely), we should get off our rears and go notice nice things in nature (and maybe, if we're like her, describe them in poetic figurative language). The greener we are, the happier we'll be.

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