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1: New and Selected Poems, Volume One Paperback – April 15, 2004
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Praise for the poetry of Mary Oliver:
'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 . . . There is no complaint in Ms. Oliver's poetry, no whining, but neither is there the sense that life is in any way easy . . . 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, New York Times Book Review
'Mary Oliver's poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations.' -Stanley Kunitz
'One would have to reach back perhaps to [John] Clare or [Christopher] Smart to safely cite a parallel to Oliver's lyricism or radical purification and her unappeasable mania for signs and wonders.' -David Barber, Poetry
'I have always thought of poems as my companions-and like companions, they accompany you wherever the journey (or the afternoon) might lead . . . My most recent companion has been Mary Oliver's The Leaf and the Cloud . . . It's a brilliant meditation, a walk through the natural world with one of our preeminent contemporary poets.' -Rita Dove, Washington Post
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.
Beacon Press maintains a Mary Oliver website, maryoliver.beacon.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/poetmaryoliver.
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Mary Olver's poems are like that: clear imagery, simple language, common themes brought together like "power . . . on a yellow thread" that packs a wallop. How's THIS for a brightly-lit thought: "Is the soul solid, like iron? / Or is it tender and breakable, like / the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?"
And this seasoned poet has a few observations about life to share with us: "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."
I've already ordered her "New and Selected Poems, Volume Two."
That said, no poem here is undeserving of its inclusion, and if it took an anthology like this to have you wonder about reading her for the first time, then thank God for this book.
Included here -note that this is only the first volume- are works from her earlier books, all of which are worth buying separately. A particularly important inclusion are the selections of American Primitive, in my opinion her most moving and accomplished collection.
Those who adore poems like the glorious "Wild Geese" or were moved by the wisdom of "The Journey," will be happy to know that they are, of course, contained in this volume, along with many others begetting similar acclaim.
So, five stars for Ms. Oliver only because I can't give her ten.
As far as the publisher, I would have liked a clearer indication that this is the very same edition already published years ago. At least in my case, the additional subtitle -"Volume One"- confused me and led me to buy something I already owned. In the other hand, if such mention indicates the upcoming release of a second volume -specially if more uncollected poems may be part of it, I'll be satisfied and forgiving.
For those who own everything by her and do not possess this volume, this is still a valid purchase on the basis of the, once, "new poems" contained and not available anywhere else.
Welcome -or welcome back- to the poetry of Mary Oliver. Let these words take your breath away with its exquisite and gently fierce call to opening your heart and be intelligent toward all beings.
Her poems talk of so many things in the natural world; she distills each to its barest essence and allows us the enjoyment of sharing it; I always feel as though she invites me to come along to discover these sacred sights and insights found in nature.
The poems in this collection explore and reveal the essence of fireflies, moss, the stars, the toad, the owl, Daisies, beans, the cricket, the Black Bear, the seasons, Blackwater (a place), the Soul and many other creatures and their habitats.
She is a sublime poet of the natural world and this collection is superb!
I recommend it to anyone!