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Mary Oliver: pay attention

Mary Oliver was the featured keynote speaker at Seattle University’s fourth annual Book Festival on Saturday.

Like most authentic human beings, she was humble, direct, quietly confident in her work – and a bit humorous. She read the favorites: The Journey, Wild Geese. And she read about her beloved Percy, her dog. She read without great drama, her crisp writing style needed no contrived flair.

But the Q/A after her poetry offered equal insight into the writer: When asked what her wisdom is for living a full life, she simply quoted herself: “Pay attention, be astonished and tell about it.”

While noting she has never been depressed - “I know it (depression) is real and exists, but I get up every day ready to get at it,”  - she says two things have saved her life: spending hours in the woods as a child and writing. She spent so much time with the two activities overlapping: she stored pencils in the trees. Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it…

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