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Dream Work Paperback – May, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the making of her poems, Oliver wields the most delicate of instruments: precision similes and astonishing metaphors. Though Dream Work , her seventh book, is somewhat less sucessful than Twelve Moons or American Primitive , which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, few lyric voices can match hers in paying homage to the natural world. Yet, her "dream works" can be palpably tragic. Inured to the absence of her estranged father ("Rage" and "A Visitor"), Oliver "saw what love might have done had we loved in time." And "Members of the Tribe" is a remarkable address to artists and poets on death and art. There are still too many echoes of James Wright in her workreferences to body, blessing, blossom, and bone. But that is a minor demur against one who is developing into a major poet. J.P. Lewis, Integrative Studies Dept., Otterbein Coll., Westerville, Ohio
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“Her poems are wonderingly perceptive and strongly written, but beyond that they are a spirited, expressive meditation on the impossibili­ties of what we call lives, and on the gratifications of change.” —Hayden Carruth

“Oliver’s poems are thoroughly convincing—as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring.” —The New York Times Book Review

“One of the astonishing aspects of [Oliver’s] work is the consistency of tone over this long period. What changes is an increased focus on nature and an increased precision with language that has made her one of our very best poets. . . . These poems sustain us rather than divert us. Although few poets have fewer human beings in their poems than Mary Oliver, it is ironic that few poets also go so far to help us forward.” —Stephen Dobyns, The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 90 pages
  • Publisher: The Atlantic Monthly Press (May 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871130696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871130693
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A private person by nature, Mary Oliver has given very few interviews over the years. Instead, she prefers to let her work speak for itself. And speak it has, for the past five decades, to countless readers. The New York Times recently acknowledged Mary Oliver as "far and away, this country's best-selling poet." Born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems, originally printed in the UK by Dent Press, was reissued in the United States in 1965 by Houghton Mifflin. Oliver has since published many works of poetry and prose. As a young woman, Oliver studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College, but took no degree. She lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state, companion to the poet's sister Norma Millay. It was there, in the late '50s, that she met photographer Molly Malone Cook. For more than forty years, Cook and Oliver made their home together, largely in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where they lived until Cook's death in 2005. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has also received the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award; the Christopher Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light; the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems; a Lannan Foundation Literary Award; and the New England Booksellers Association Award for Literary Excellence. Oliver's essays have appeared in Best American Essays 1996, 1998, 2001; the Anchor Essay Annual 1998, as well as Orion, Onearth and other periodicals. Oliver was editor of Best American Essays 2009. Oliver's books on the craft of poetry, A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance, are used widely in writing programs. She is an acclaimed reader and has read in practically every state as well as other countries. She has led workshops at various colleges and universities, and held residencies at Case Western Reserve University, Bucknell University, University of Cincinnati, and Sweet Briar College. From 1995, for five years, she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from The Art Institute of Boston (1998), Dartmouth College (2007) and Tufts University (2008). Oliver currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the inspiration for much of her work.

Photo Credit: Rachel Giese Brown, 2009.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
_Dream Work_ is the first Mary Oliver book that I found, way back in 1989 while ill with pneumonia. "The Journey", possibly Mary's most popular poem, leapt out at me and quite literally opened my mind to a deeper commitment to self-care. That poem was Good Medicine!! ... "Wild Geese" has been another balm; who among us couldn't feel more tender towards ourselves when we read these lines, "You do not have to be good./You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hunded miles through the desert, repenting./You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves."?
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By John Paul Jaubert on December 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was a little tired of studying one day years ago and decided to pick up something entirely different and read it instead. I did a random search for whatever words came to my fingertips first. I was away at college and feeling a little homesick I guess. As I recall, the words included "moonlight", "home", and "dream". I got back Twelve Moons, House of Light, and Dreamwork. That started my romance with Mary Oliver.
I'm aware that many people say her imagery is too rich, too luxurious, and that it is not so much elemental as "stock". I also believe that that's like criticizing Tchaikovsky or Strauss or Puccini for being too melodic, too beautiful, too sad, too delightful.
I see no reason to believe that popularity and artistic value must be inversely proportional. Quite the contrary, I wish that more people could know about this wonderful woman to whom I am so deeply grateful.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mary Oliver is the poet I always point to first to contradict people who say, "For poetry to be good, it has to be depressing." Oliver continually proves that being hopeful, appreciative, and optimistic isn't necessarily incompatible with being a good artist/writer or a person who thinks analytically and critically. The poems in this book largely deal with nature, art, or music, and with appreciating the natural world, even if that appreciation sometimes needs to be forced.
I still don't know how Oliver does it. . . something about the clarity of her language makes subjects and philosophies that would sound trite or sugary in the lines of any other writer deeply moving. Perhaps because she doesn't embellish on her subjects, but lets the images and ideas speak for themselves.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Quadradox on May 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've owned this brief book, just under 90 pages, now for over a decade. First purchased it after hearing the more famous poems quoted several times by friends and in workshops -- such as, Wild Geese and The Journey.

These two gems have certainly found their way into my soul. Cherished. When I am surprised now to hear them quoted again after having moved to a different town and different friends -- they still create a sense of profound comfort, not because life is easy but because Mary Oliver has managed to give it honest and penetrating expression that honors the struggle, the wistfulness, the determination and the glimpses of hope.

Since she is a Pulitzer Winner for Poetry, I expected to find more reviews here. Her wisdom was definitely not exhausted in her most popular poems. There are many other very fine, equally enchanted lines in this book. Other stanzas of haunting beauty and insight. So far, I've never tired of it recapturing my attention as I walk by the shelf where it rests. No other book of poems that I've owned calls me this persistently and at "the right time".

Over these years, regardless of the pleasure or the stressfulness of my day -- there is a poem in here which has fresh relevancy. I savor her terse yet skillful word-smithing. After a few minutes of letting her words wash over and through me, I feel a deep satisfaction. No, life isn't perfect. Pain still happens, tragedy (past and present) still touches me, and death still claims those I care about. But Mary Oliver has found the words to express it and to create a slightly different angle on my day or night, illuminating that which is shared across all of us earthwalkers. Through her words I see more options. I feel sacred ground beneath my feet.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Yaspan on July 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I love Mary Oliver's magnificent poetry. She helps the reader feel the connection between nature and the Divine. "The Journey," Mary's incredible poem about loving and saving oneself is a rare gem. As a psychotherapist, I see so many people who do not see freedom for themselves as an option. They feel imprisoned by others, convention, their own harsh self-judgement. A reading and understanding of "The Journey," can be the first incredible step towards freeing one's spirit, allowing it to take flight and soar. I cannot read this poem without my heart filling with gratitude. I took the journey for myself years ago and "...saved the only life I could save;my own." God bless Mary Oliver.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Mandiyan on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I discovered Mary Oliver by reading a short story which referenced Wild Geese. Finding Wild Geese quite literally saved my life. The rest of Dream Work was hardly a let down. The opening poem, Dogfish... "I want to listen to the enormous waterfalls of the sun"... how do you get better than that? From Rage to Shadows to Sliver, Orion, Trilliums... every single poem in this book is pure. This book is my "Bible" so to speak.

Get this book. *Get it.*
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