“Wild Geese” is very different from many poems written. Oliver’s personal life, the free form of the poem along with the first line, “You do not have to be good,” and the imagery of nature contributes to Oliver’s intent to convince the audience that to be part of the world, a person does not need to aspire to civilization’s standards.
Oliver would write this poem because she did not conform to societies wishes. According to the Poetry Foundation, Oliver has never actually received a degree despite attending The Ohio State University and Vassar College. By not completing college, she had stepped out of the normal procedure of American life of growing up, going to college, then working. She also “met her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook” while helping organize Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry. This choice is not a normal decision for people to make; however, she is still successful and has been presented many awards, including Honorary Doctorates (Beacon). Despite living the way she wants to, Oliver still manages to have success and happiness.
Furthermore, Oliver clearly demonstrates the point that you do not have to follow society’s rules to be happy in her poem, “Wild Geese,” by using free form structure for a poem that does not rhyme. Many poems rhyme. By not rhyming or following a set structure, Oliver demonstrates that the poem does not need to follow the normal requirements for a poem to have meaning. The poem begins with a bold statement: “You do not have to be good.” The first line does not have a rhythm or pattern, which further demonstrates the further delineation from the status quo of poetry in this poem. The difference in structure between this poem and many others helps to set the poem and its message apart from the others.
Additionally, the imagery of nature also contributes to the argument that you do not need to try to live up to society’s standards to be happy. Immediately following the first statement, Oliver prompts that “You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” The senseless wandering in a desert in harsh conditions is similar to the biblical story of Moses leading the Isrealites through the desert before reaching the Promised Land. By writing that the reader does not have to wander as a punishment leads into line four and five, where the speaker asserts that instead of being good, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Instead of following what other’s want, the speaker proclaims that the only real necessity is to follow what your natural instincts, you animal, want. The speaker also declares inn lines six and seven that while you are talking about your despair, “the world goes on,” which proves that human traits of complaining and listening to others do not bring you closer to nature. In fact, the world continues as if you had not done anything at all. The poem then contrasts inert objects such as “the sun,” “the prairies,” and “the...