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Red Bird: Poems [Kindle Edition]

Mary Oliver
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could. So begins Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, and the image of that fiery bird stays with the reader, appearing in unexpected forms and guises until, in a postscript, he explains himself: "For truly the body needs / a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, / the soul has need of a body, / and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable / beauty of heaven / where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, / and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."

This collection of sixty-one new poems, the most ever in a single volume of Oliver's work, includes an entirely new direction in the poet's work: a cycle of eleven linked love poems-a dazzling achievement. As in all of Mary Oliver's work, the pages overflow with her keen observation of the natural world and her gratitude for its gifts, for the many people she has loved in her seventy years, as well as for her disobedient dog, Percy. But here, too, the poet's attention turns with ferocity to the degradation of the Earth and the denigration of the peoples of the world by those who love power. Red Bird is unquestionably Mary Oliver's most wide-ranging volume to date.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Birds are totem animals for poets, and Oliver writes of her winged kindred spirits often, here addressing “red bird” with gratitude for “firing up the landscape” in winter. Red bird is an emblem of passion in a frozen world, and a sign of Oliver’s own resurgence of love and hope after the profound grief of her last collection, Thirst (2006). In “Summer Morning,” she writes, “Heart, / I implore you, / it’s time to come back / from the dark.” And in “Self -Portrait,” she exclaims, “Ah! seventy. And still / in love with life. And still / full of beans.” One of few avidly read living poets, Oliver revels in the beauty of the living world, and takes to heart its lessons in patience and pleasure, cessation and renewal. As piercingly observant as ever in this substantial and forthright collection, Oliver is rhapsodic. But she is also wry, caustic, and elegiac in critiquing our habit of violence, “the debris of progress,” and the cruel fate of rivers, polar bears, and all the wild places and animals we’ve endangered, and from which we still have so much to learn. --Donna Seaman

Review

Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world . . . She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.—Renée Loth, Boston Globe

"It has always seemed . . . that Mary Oliver might leave us any minute. Even a 1984 Pulitzer Prize couldn't pin her to the ground. She'd change quietly into a heron or a bear and fly or walk off forever. Her poems contain windows, doors, transformations, hints on how to escape the body; there's the 'glamour of death' and the 'life after the earth-life.' This urge to be transformed is yoked to a joy in this moment, this life, this body."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"'My work is loving the world,' Oliver tells us . . . She has always done that work . . . in poems of considerable beauty. Now she rises, not above the world, but through it."—Jay Parini, The Guardian

Product Details

  • File Size: 283 KB
  • Print Length: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001KQZPTY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,472 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Extraordinary Voice of the Ordinary World May 5, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Are you familiar with the poetry of Mary Oliver?" I asked a student once in the hope of beginning a conversation on the poem "Wild Geese," a gem that contains the lines

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.

en route to the statement "Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,/the world offers itself to your imagination." This was the line I wanted in the hope of beginning a conversation on inspiration.

"I think so," the young woman squinted, the better to scan a distant memory. "I think that's the lady who writes about, like, her dog, Percy, I think and trees. That her?"

"You can start there," I said. "And you will get to Mary Oliver."

Because Mary Oliver's poetry is about this moment in this world in this light in this weather, alone or with the dog or on the way to something or nothing. It's about being here and loving it.

I believe there is nothing worth saying about Mary Oliver. Better to spend the time reading her work, or revisiting the magic of the landscape of your life.

Her new collection Red Bird is her 12th volume of published poems. Here she speaks to the beauty of the ordinary, the environment, and the people of the world who suffer at the hands of those who love power.

The world offers itself to your imagination. Accept the invitation and walk with this wonderful woman from Provincetown, Massachusetts.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Red Bird" Fly's April 3, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mary Oliver's simple, spiritual, nature infused poetry was never better. She teaches us all to watch all the details of Gods creations without preaching. We learn from the movement of her poetry, to recognize a cardinal when he lands, to know the names of all of natures wonders: pine needles and prairie dogs, cypress and elm,and we love the class as we learn. She faces life's curve balls with the wit and eye of a portrait painter who sees the tattered dress she wears as a badge not a burden. And she is aging so gracefully. I hope I do as well.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Present Moment Beauty May 2, 2008
Format:Hardcover
How beautifully we are invited in this most beautiful of Mary Oliver's books, to cease our restless strivings, to simply stand still, to listen, to watch, and to breathe in in gratitude for all that Life presents! Her words paint the invitation for us in tones that are sometimes as gentle as water-colours, sometimes as vibrant as a rich oil painting, revealing her awareness in the moment, telling us so much about her own love for life in all its forms. One of her great gifts is that ability to draw us to her as well as to the miracle of life around us, so that we have the feeling of walking the same path with her in companionable joy each moment. - It has been a great read, one that has brought much peace and a feeling of tranquillity and wellbeing to my spirit.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary and Compelling November 25, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I had the privilege of seeing Mary Oliver in person; her physical appearance was so like her poetry. Human, present, honest and brilliant. A woman asked her a question, then the woman began to cry and the audience came to a slightly embarrassed quiet. Mary called out "Are you crying?" The woman barely answered, but one could hear her say "yes". "Good for you" said Mary, which just about brought the house down with sympathy and relief.
This was shortly after her partner died; the book is full of her courage, grief and ability to recognize the wonders in life even as her heart is aching. A must read for every woman who has ever expressed a love of poetry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book! May 19, 2010
By H
Format:Paperback
This is one of the best books by Mary Oliver I've read. If you want to read some great work by an award winning poet, this is the place to start.

A few lines from this book:

"I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God. One of which was you."

"Put your lips to the world and live your life."

The poems in the books are largely nature inspired, but there is more. There is a poem about Iraq, Our culture, her dog Percy. All these poems are great, fun, light spirited and deep.

Mary Oliver has a simple way of personifying nature, and life that make her poetry easy to read, relatable, and unpretentious.

Her poetry is inspiring, and more so in this book than any of her others that I have read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Mary Oliver's 12th book of poetry, Red Bird is wonderful. I not being a poetry aficionado never-the-less found much to appreciate in her work. Her poems are clear and easy to understand; a refreshing change for someone like me that does not necessarily "get" some of the denser poets. More so, I found her poetry to be highly inspirational. While reading I found myself thinking multiple times "this would be a good poem to live the day by." At least one of the poems consists of no more than two lines and the title, yet the short length does not diminish the meaning or the depth of what she wants to convey. A few lines of her poem "The Teachers" clearly illustrate what I believe she accomplishes in her work:

So I do not go
Far from that school
With its star-bright
Or blue ceiling,

And I listen to those teachers,
And others too -
The wind in the trees
And the water waves - (9-16)

She truly "listens" to the world around her and transposes what she sees and hears into the written word. Some of her poems are light-hearted, some sad, others thought-provoking, and others purely comical. My particular favorites had to be the ones about Percy, as I myself have a "Percy" at home. Give this book a try even if you are not a "poetry fan" I guarantee you'll find at least one poem that you'll take away in your heart. Now I'm off to find her other poetry books. Yes, me, the non-poetry fan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars written a beautiful book of poetry
Mary Oliver has, once again, written a beautiful book of poetry. Book arrived in good condition and sooner than anticipated. Thanks!
Published 6 days ago by Jo C
5.0 out of 5 stars To be read quietly and by oneself
Beautiful poems bringing me back to the natural world.
Published 9 days ago by Joan Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Absolutely beautiful! Mary has inspired me over and over through her moments in time caught in a poem.
Published 2 months ago by m jones
5.0 out of 5 stars I love all of Mary Oliver's poetry
I love all of Mary Oliver's poetry, but this book is definitely one of my favorites! If you're just becoming acquainted with Mary Oliver's work, this is a great place to start! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kim Hamblin-Hart
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful words...just read it...hers are so much better than any review I could post. Mary Oliver is amazing.
Published 4 months ago by Luey Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy.
A Mary Oliver treasure. So hopeful and thoughtful. I gifted a friend who had lost someone to illness and it was perfect after some time had passed. Read more
Published 5 months ago by The Kat
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!
I bought this as a gift -- had bought one earlier, but couldn't give it up! Beautiful!
Published 5 months ago by Marjorie Rommel
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry
I have enjoyed reading Mary Oliver's words that other's have quoted in books, have purchased 2 of her poetry books in the last 2 months. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sylvia B.
5.0 out of 5 stars ALways love Mary Oliver!
I am thrilled to see a new Mary Oliver book is out (thank you for letting me know )
She is best and each poem makes me think and appreciate life and all its creatures more and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Libby D.
5.0 out of 5 stars a must for Mary Oliver fans!
I am an Oliver fan. This and the Evidence collection of poems are absolutely heart-filling and so inspirational. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Judith L
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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.

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