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Dream Work Paperback – May, 1986
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Dream Work, a collection of forty-five poems, follows both chronologically and logically Mary Oliver's American Primitive, which won the Pulitzer Prize for the finest book of poetry published in 1983 by an American poet. The depth and diversity of perceptual awareness--so steadfast and radiant in American Primitive--continue in Dream Work. Additionally, she has turned her attention in these poems to the solitary and difficult labors of the spirit--to accepting the truth about one's personal world, and to valuing the triumphs while transcending the failures of human relationships.
Whether by way of inheritance--as in her poems about the Holocaust--or through a painful glimpse into the present--as in "Acid," a poem about an injured boy begging in the streets of Indonesia--the events and tendencies of history take on a new importance also. More deeply than in her previous volumes, the sensibility behind these poems has merged with the world. Mary Oliver's willingness to be joyful continues, deepened by self-awareness, by experience, and by choice.
"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
Mary Oliver was born in 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio. Among the awards and prizes she has received are the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Shelley Memorial Award, a Guggenheim, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award. Her collection of poetry American Primitive received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and New and Selected Poems received a National Book Award in 1992. Ms. Oliver has served on the faculties of Case Western Reserve, Bucknell, the University of Cincinnati, Sweet Briar College, and Duke University. She currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts and teaches literature at Bennington College.
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 convincingas 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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
This thoughtfully written book of poetry forces you to look deep within and to touch base with a sense of the Divine -- the language is evocative as poetic language should be. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Joyce Antila Phipps
Anyone who has read The Geese knows that Mary Oliver is a balm for the soul. Nature lovers in particular will love this. I did.Published 3 months ago by MP
classic, delicate, graceful. This is a great introduction to Mary Oliver's work. If you like Robert Frost, or T. Read morePublished 11 months ago by milla
I had not read her before and was not prepared for her eloquent examination of the dark side of nature.Published 13 months ago by Mollie Marshall
It is impossible to say which is my favorite from this collection but what I can say is Oliver concocts a potion here than can seep into and heal a soul that sometimes loses its... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Kimberly Smith Highland