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New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary…

New and Selected Poems: Volume One (original 1992; edition 2005)

by Mary Oliver

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696513,671 (4.43)22
Title:New and Selected Poems: Volume One
Authors:Mary Oliver
Info:Beacon Press (2005), Edition: Revised, Hardcover, 272 pages

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New and Selected Poems: Volume One by Mary Oliver (1992)



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Accessible poetry which is sometimes deceptively simple, Oliver’s themes reflect a profound connection to nature, transience and death, and the oneness of all things. She is clearly someone who has spent a lot of time in nature and is a keen observer of it, and her poetry is in part a celebration of beauty and in part a search for truth. She is at the same time a lonely artist and someone who truly feels a part of a larger whole, inseparable from the plants, animals, and people she observes. Death comes in the form of owl or hawk in her work, but it’s all a part of the natural order of things, and Oliver is stoical. Beautiful.

On change, from ‘In Blackwater Woods’:
“Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

On death (and life), from ‘October’:
“Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.

Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flowers, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.

One morning
the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident,
and didn’t see me – and I thought:

so this is the world.
I’m not in it.
It is beautiful.”

And from ‘’White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field’:
“maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us –
as soft as feathers –
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow –
that is nothing but light – scalding, aortal light –
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.”

On dogs, from ‘Her Grave’:
“A dog can never tell you what she knows from the
smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know
almost nothing.”

On the beauty of flowers, and transience, from ‘Peonies’:
“Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?”

On meaning, from ‘First Snow’:
“and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain – not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.”

On oneness, from ‘Gannets’:
“life is real,
and pain is real,
but death is an imposter,
and if I could be what once I was,
like the wolf or the bear
standing on the cold shore,
I would still see it –
how the fish simply escape, this time,
or how they slide down into the black fire
for a moment,
then rise from the water inseparable
from the gannets’ wings.”

On sadness, from ‘The Lilies Break Open Over the Dark Water’:
“And there you are
on the shore,

fitful and thoughtful, trying
to attach them to an idea –
some news of your own life.
But the lilies

are slippery and wild – they are
devoid of meaning, they are
simply doing,
from the deepest

spurs of their being,
what they are impelled to do
every summer.
And so, dear sorrow, are you.”

On seeing the beauty in things, from ‘The Ponds’:
“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled –
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing –
that the light is everything – that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”

On solitude, from ‘Lilies’:
“I think I will always be lonely
in this world, where the cattle
graze like a black and white river –

where the ravishing lilies
melt, without protest, on their tongues –
where the hummingbird, wherever there is fuss,
just rises and floats away.”

And this one, from ‘Wild Geese’:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knes
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

On transience, from ‘One or Two Things’:
“For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
‘Don’t love your life
too much,’ it said,

and vanished
into the world.”

Lastly, a couple of my favorites in their entirety, first Spring
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
In the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water,
There is only one question:

how to love the world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

And this one, probably my favorite from this collection…
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world. ( )
2 vote gbill | Oct 20, 2016 |
I liked these poems but didn't fall head over heels. Oliver is a bit too religious for my tastes, though her natural world is one I recognize and feel at home in. Her eye is keen, her voice assured. A couple of her verses will stay with me. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
If you like nature and poetry, you'll love Mary Oliver. She seems to be able to say what I just can't express. Balm for the soul.
  tmousecmouse | Jan 2, 2009 |
I will always tag this one "currently reading". It is by my bedside and the book I pick up to read a page or two for comfort, to provoke thought, or just to relax. Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. ( )
  poolays | Apr 26, 2008 |
Mary Oliver is a national treasure. Reading her poetry quickens the pulse widens your eyesight, extends your hearing & makes you more aware of the world that surrounds you. Her nature poetry stuns with the clarity of Keats & Frost :
from "Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine"
...the hummingbird comes
like a small green angel, to soak
his dark tongue
in happiness--
Or "The Swan "
...something comes floating--a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers--

Mary Oliver's "New & Collected Poems won the 1992 National Book award & also the Pulitzer prize for poetry. ( )
1 vote MarianV | Jul 26, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807068772, Paperback)

When New and Selected Poems, Volume One was originally published in 1992, Mary Oliver was awarded the National Book Award. In the fourteen years since its initial appearance it has become one of the best-selling volumes of poetry in the country. This collection features thirty poems published only in this volume as well as selections from the poet's first eight books.

Mary Oliver's perceptive, brilliantly crafted poems about the natural landscape and the fundamental questions of life and death have won high praise from critics and readers alike. "Do you love this world?" she interrupts a poem about peonies to ask the reader. "Do you cherish your humble and silky life?" She makes us see the extraordinary in our everyday lives, how something as common as light can be "an invitation/to happiness,/and that happiness,/when it's done right,/is a kind of holiness,/palpable and redemptive." She illuminates how a near miss with an alligator can be the catalyst for seeing the world "as if for the second time/the way it really is." Oliver's passionate demonstrations of delight are powerful reminders of the bond between every individual, all living things, and the natural world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Beacon Press

2 editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 0807068772, 0807068780

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