Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as Lunar Calendar

By , January 2, 2011

As I mentioned recently, in evaluating the fulfillment of last year’s resolution to read a poem a day, I discovered something interesting about one of my favorite poets. Mary Oliver published a collection of poems called Twelve Moons (check your local bookstore) which I received for my birthday last year. The collection is based around twelve poems about the full moon, using the Algonquin Nation’s names for each month’s full moon (Wolf Moon, Hunter’s Moon, etc.). Looking through it, I realized that, with a little bit of finessing, the collection could be read in conjunction with the lunar calendar. Roughly speaking, in addition to each month’s full moon, there’s a poem that correlates with the other moon phases in each month, with a theme or subject that more or less corresponds to the season surrounding the nearest full moon.

I spent some time recently plotting the poems against the 2011 calendar. I had to fudge a bit—some months had more than enough poems to cover the moon phases, others not enough. If there were too many, I divided the days between each phase and stuck a poem in halfway between them. I filled with a few poems, but tried to keep them close to the month’s season whenever possible. I came up with a fairly workable schedule, which I lay out below.

Bear in mind that the moon phases listed calendars produced in the United States correspond to the Eastern time zone. Alaska time, coming 4 hours later, means that some of our local moons don’t match the “standard” calendars. This schedule is based on Alaska time! If you want to read the poems in sequence, on the corresponding moon, be sure to consult your calendar and adjust for your region’s time zone.

Reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons by the Lunar Calendar, 2011

1st Quarter Moon, Jan. 12: Snakes in Winter, p. 66

Full Moon, Jan. 19: Wolf Moon, p. 67

Last Quarter Moon, Jan. 26: Neutralities, p. 69

New Moon, Feb. 2: The Night Traveler, p. 70

1st Quarter Moon, Feb. 10: Winter Trees, p. 72

Full Moon, Feb. 17: Snow Moon—Black Bear Gives Birth, p. 74

Last Quarter Moon, Feb. 24: no poem

New Moon, Mar. 4: A Blessing, p. 75

1st Quarter Moon, Mar. 12: no poem

Full Moon, Mar. 19: Worm Moon, p. 76

Last Quarter Moon, Mar. 26: Sleeping in the Forest, p. 3

New Moon, Apr. 3: Mussels, p. 4

1st Quarter Moon, Apr. 11: The Lamb, p. 6

Full Moon, Apr. 17: Pink Moon—The Pond, p. 7

Last Quarter Moon, Apr. 24: The Black Snake, p. 9

New Moon, May 2: Spring, p. 10

1st Quarter Moon, May 10: no poem

Full Moon, May 17: Flower Moon—How She Travels, p. 11

Last Quarter Moon, May 24: Stone Poem, p. 12

New Moon, Jun. 1: The Fawn, p. 13

1st Quarter Moon, Jun. 8: The Fish, p. 14

Full Moon, Jun. 15: Strawberry Moon, p. 16

Last Quarter Moon, Jun. 23: The Truro Bear, p. 19

Jun. 27: Raccoons, p. 20

New Moon, Jul. 1: Entering the Kingdom, p. 21

Jul. 4: Lil, p. 22

1st Quarter Moon, Jul. 7: Turtles, p. 24

Jul. 11: Music Lessons, p. 26

Full Moon, Jul. 14: Buck Moon—From the Field Guide to Insects, p. 27

Last Quarter Moon, Jul. 22: Dreams p. 28

New Moon, Jul. 30: Bats, p. 30

1st Quarter Moon, Aug. 6: Two Horses, p. 32

Full Moon, Aug. 13: Sturgeon Moon—The Death of Meriwether Lewis, p. 35

Last Quarter Moon, Aug. 21: Sharks, p. 33

New Moon, Aug. 28: Swamp, p. 37

1st Quarter Moon, Sep. 4: The Lamps, p. 40

Full Moon, Sep. 12: Harvest Moon—The Mockingbird Sings in the Night, p. 38

Sep. 15: Poem for My Father’s Ghost, p. 42

Last Quarter Moon, Sep. 20: Aerialists, p. 44

Sep. 23: Looking for Mushrooms, p. 45

New Moon, Sep. 27: Bone Poem, p. 46

Sep. 30: Aunt Leaf, p. 47

1st Quarter Moon, Oct. 3: At Blackwater Pond, p. 49

Full Moon, Oct. 11: Hunter’s Moon—Eating the Bear, p. 50

Last Quarter Moon, Oct. 19: Last Days, p. 52

New Moon, Oct. 26: Sunday Morning, High Tide p. 54

1st Quarter Moon, Nov. 2: Winter Sleep p. 53

Full Moon, Nov. 10: Beaver Moon—The Suicide of a Friend, p. 55

Last Quarter Moon, Nov. 18: The Black Walnut Tree, p. 56

New Moon, Nov. 24: Storm, p. 59

1st Quarter Moon, Dec. 2: For Eleanor, p. 58

Full Moon, Dec. 10: Cold Moon—Hannah’s Children p. 61

Last Quarter Moon, Dec. 17: Stark County Holidays, p. 62

New Moon, Dec. 24: Christmas Poem, p. 64

1st Quarter Moon, Dec. 31: Snakes in Winter, p. 66 (again).

If you decide to join me in doing this, and you’re a regular reader of the blog, I’ll try to post reminders throughout the year.

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