From Publishers Weekly
Consoling, and intense interaction with the natural world abounds in the 43 poems of Pulitzer Prize–winner Oliver's new collection, as her many readers might expect. The trees whisper, a ribbon snake imparts lessons and the poet is likened to a swimming otter. What has changed, though, is that Oliver's new work reflects her faith in God and her grief over the death of her longtime partner. Those who do not share her brand of faith may or may not find its terms difficult to accept–"Everything is His./ The door. The door jamb"–but the loss of a loved one is more universal: of grief, she writes, "I went closer, / and I did not die." Still, many of these poems mention or court cataclysmic loss while refusing to dwell in it. At times, Oliver's will-to-gratitude can feel like preaching or admonishment; Oliver describes a luna moth with "a pale green wing whose rim is like a musical notation," before adding, "Have you noticed?" The role of danger or evil in this Eden is mostly unacknowledged: "... the things of this world / ... are kind, and maybe// also troubled." (Oct.)
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Oliver, one of the country's most popular and highly awarded poets, presents her credo at the outset of her newest collection: "My work is loving the world." The poems that follow are what readers expect from Oliver, beautifully tempered lyrics celebrating the splendor of the living world. Oliver has been what Diane Ackerman calls an "earth ecstatic," a contemplative writer who finds joy and wisdom in sustained attentiveness to nature. Spirituality has always been an element in Oliver's work, but as she writes of her grief after losing her longtime companion, her poems gradually become overtly Christian. The result is a candid revelation of a profound sea change navigated in pain and humility and culminating in a very moving declaration of faith. Oliver's signature tropes are as vital as ever--her beloved birds, dogs, snakes, and ocean are all summoned to capture the breathtaking glory of life. But now Oliver pours her wonder and gratitude into directed prayers: "Oh Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am / not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you." Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved