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by Mary Oliver

Flare Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. The speaker of this poem seems to address the reader directly. What do you think of this? Would the poem be fundamentally different if it didn't directly address the reader this way? What's the real difference between the "I" and the "You" in the poem?
  2. Our speaker wants us to observe and study the natural world and to take responsibility for our own lives. How are these two ideas connected? How can you tell, based on your reading of the poem?
  3. What do you think of the way the poem, especially in the last section, seems to give advice, or tell the reader how to live? Do you appreciate this advice, or do you find it a little condescending? Why?
  4. What do you make of the parts of the poem that talk about what a poem is and isn't? Can you connect these ideas to the themes of loss, beauty, life, etc.?
  5. What do you think of the way the poem is broken up into sections? How do the structural aspects of the poem influence the way it works?
  6. This poem is really the opening sequence for an entire book of poems. What do you imagine the rest of the book is like?

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