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Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays Hardcover – September 30, 2003

4.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alternating poems, short essays and drawings of feathers, Oliver's 12th collection is strongest and most direct when using the first person to show the second a path to the good life: "You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting/ You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." Many of the poems take up moments of attention to, and are titled for, birds: goldfinches "having a melodious argument"; hummingbirds as "tiny fireworks"; herons "in the black, polished water"; starlings "Chunky and noisy/ but with stars in their black feathers"; and the local crow, of whom she says "I have never seen anything brighter." Oliver won a Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive (1984) and a National Book Award for New and Selected Poems (1992). If this book lacks some of the urgency of earlier work, it has been replaced by a confidence that seems less about writing highly crafted poems than about rendering the moment, whether of observation or imagination, simply and easily, whether in prose or verse. As an essay on a "black-backed gull" Oliver rescued puts it, "no matter how hard I try to tell this story, it's not like it was," but the best of these 28 pieces seem to get close.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Mary Oliver is beautiful and accurate in this book of poetry and prose about birds . . . all rendered with the precision of a line-drawing of a single feather that puts the entire wing into perspective. --Orion

"Oliver has gained enormous popularity in recent years for the accessible yet highly articulate and profound treatment she gives each poem . . . This new title will bring much pleasure to the many readers who claim Oliver as their favorite poet, as well as to people new to her work." —Library Journal

"What we have here are moral essays in prose and verse, passionate meditations on the conduct of life. You will be the wiser—as I believe I am—for having read them." --Frank Wilson, Philadephia Inquirer
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807068683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807068687
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was through looking for pictures of owls that I found one of Marry Oliver's poems. I was struck by the imagery she portrays and by the mouth-dropping metaphors and almost seamless way of making you flow with the read.

She has particularly two details that I appreciate very much from her writing:

1.) She plays vividly with light and darkness, creating an assorted array of contrasts that lets you intake the imagery as if you were there, watching what she did when she was struck by the arrow of poetic thinking.

2.) She has this most assuring way of dealing with death; death doesn't seem to bother her nor does it seem to be regarded as right and wrong, it simply is--like the keeper of life and the taker of it, too. She admires how death takes what it must but respects what life must keep in order to maintain balance. I think it's this particular characteristic that especially calls upon my attention and that lures me to keep on reading her writings.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for a birder friend that never reads poetry and she absolutely loves the book! The book is filled with the sights, sounds, and imagery of nature (in both essay and poetry) as only Mary Oliver can breathe them into life through uncomplicated words and a genuine love of all things.
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Before discovering Mary Oliver, I was not much of a poetry fan. However, her poems and essays, to me, are food for my soul. I am a birder, and this particular collection is one of my favorites. She writes simply and her observations speak to the beauty, the danger and the mystery of nature.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended by a priest. It has very subtle Biblical references, but you won't notice that if you are not looking. The poems and essays are wonderful and I highly recommend the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As always, Mary Oliver does not disappoint. She is my favorite living poet. Her observations of nature and her beautiful way of expressing them touch something deep inside.
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After reading an essay (Bird) and a poem (Crow?) in this book, I'm anxious to find and read more of Mary Oliver's work. I tend to favor essays and "Bird" was a special one. If you appreciate good writing read Mary Oliver.
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Her imagery of birds is very appealing to me. I watch birds and she has a real gift for seeing birds and using the phrases that remind me of special times when I've been out adding to my life list.... and just enjoying nature.
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of course this is another treasure
she writes so clearly about the paradox of life.
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