- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; Reprint edition (April 15, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807068772
- ISBN-13: 978-0807068779
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
Although Oliver's environment, her field of play, is nature, I wouldn't reduce her to a "naturalist poet." Nature is always interpreted and absorbed by her vision. Nature reveals its secrets to her, but they are the secrets of her own soul. In her poetry, nature is the oracle that reveals the human psyche.
But I should include Oliver's own words, because no prose critique can do justice to the intoxicating natural imagery of her poems. In the poem "Peonies", the richness and fertility of nature mirror the same qualities of the imagination:
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open- pools of lace,
white and pink- and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,...
The poem ends with a challenge that reverberates through the book. In spite of the sense of death looming sometimes on the edge of the poem (and our lives), sometimes at the center, are we willing to fully experience life?
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
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.
Each work is masterful and seems a deep meditation that leaves a reader feeling refreshed and somehow privy to a personal, even private part of the poet as an investigator and witness to nature and its secrets.
Each time I read one of her poems I feel as if she is inviting me into the woods with her to witness the natural world in all of its sacredness.
I have yet to read a poem of hers that disappointed me.
Her mood-infused poem "Rain" (the first poem in the book) is sublime; and "Mushrooms" is glorious!
Read "Mushrooms" slowly and listen to the language; see the imagery in the mind:
Rain, and then
the cool pursed
lips of the wind
out of the ground---
red and yellow skulls
through sand; astonishing
in their suddenness,
their wetness, they appear
on fall mornings, some
balancing in the earth
on one hoof
packed with poison,
chunkily, and delicious---
those who know
walk out to gather, choosing
the benign from flocks
of glitterers, sorcerors,
shark-white death angels
in their torn veils
looking innocent as sugar
but full of paralysis:
is to stagger down
fast as mushrooms themselves
when they are done being perfect
slide back under the shining
fields of rain.
My God! I don't think that even a mushroom would know itself in that way.
She is a sublime witness to the natural world.
Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets -- and let me tell you, I don't have many "favorite poets".
I recommend this poetry collection to you!