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Thirst: Poems Hardcover – October 15, 2006
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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And there are happy songs here concerning snowfalls in which the speaker comes home "red-cheeked from the roused wind," trees that speak through their leaves, and luna moths. A dog appreciates a sunset, we look into the "nameless stars" that swim in a snake's eye, and the ghost of Walt Whitman seems to inhabit lines such as: "when I speak to the fox,/ the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know/ that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,/ as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in." Oliver is speaking to God, however, whereas Whitman was speaking to humanity, or the great natural world as an indivisible whole.
The lament inevitably comes, however (about halfway through the collection). And the later poems in Thirst deal almost exclusively with the speaker's attempts to reconcile herself with Christiandom's version of god. They lose their footing and slip into a kind of unpleasant (to me, at least) sermonizing. By the end of the book, there are few concrete images left and purely dogmatic statements have crept into the material, although it should be kept in mind that these pieces probably were specfically targeted to Christian and/or Catholic markets.
Overall, it is not worth the price but well worth your time, if that makes any sense.
What I loved most about this book is how it will make you think of the world with more appreciation. Reading this book is truly a spiritual experience.
When reading I could instantly relate to her poems, especially "Messenger" as she talks about hummingbirds and I'd just spent a week at my mother's house watching her hummingbirds drink out of a feeder. It made me realize how true her statement was. As she says: "My work is loving the world."
Her second poem was about snow and I just survived the massive snow storm in the Seattle area. She is a very accessible poet and I could more fully understand her appreciation of nature and beauty after my week dealing with the elements. I felt I read this book at the right time as I could relate to her sense of wonder.
This is a book I'd love to give to anyone who loves poetry and even to those who don't. The vivid images and the invitation to a deeper relationship with God is truly beautiful. Two poems made me laugh but two poems also brought me close to tears with their magnificence.
I like how she ends some of her poems with a sense of mystery. These poems will bless you with their beauty. Mary Oliver's soul is truly extraordinary and exquisite. After reading this book I am filled with gratitude and love. Reading these poems will leave you with a warm glow in your heart.
~The Rebecca Review
I'm not quite sure who's responsible for the electronic layout, but I found it frustrating that some lines appeared in larger type than others. In fact some stanzas were of different sizes, which I found irritating. And who wants someone to tell you how much time it will take you to "finish" a book of poetry? In this case, I'd say a few years.