West Wind Poems and Prose Poems

Mary Oliver, 1935-2019

eBook - 1998

The New York Times has called Mary Oliver's poems "thoroughly convincing - as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring." In this stunning collection of forty poems - nineteen previously unpublished - she writes of nature and love, of the way they transform over time. And the way they remain constant. And what did you think love would be like? A summer day? The brambles in their places, and the long stretches of mud? Flowers in every field, in every garden, with their soft beaks and their pastel shoulders? On one street after another, the litter ticks in the gutter. In one room after another, the lovers meet, quarrel, sicken, break apart, cry out. One or two leap from windows. Most simply lean, ...exhausted, their thin arms on the sill. They have done all they could. The golden eagle, that lives not far from here, has perhaps a thousand tiny feathers flowing from the back of its head, each one shaped like an infinitely small but perfect spear.

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[United States] : HarperCollins 1998.
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Mary Oliver, 1935-2019 (-)
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Review by Booklist Review

What news does Oliver bring from her beloved woods and seashore? What bright bits of wisdom has she woven into the airy but sturdy basketry of her poems? In an ardent opting for freedom, Oliver says simply, "I don't want to sell my life for money," and yet there is nothing simple about it, or in her declaring that sometimes she just doesn't want to come in from the rain or put a stop to her dog's happy romp through wet leaves. At 60, Oliver is amazed that she feels so much as she did 40 years ago, long before she won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, long before her need to preserve, in the mobile shrine of words, the beauty she observes in nature brought her "pomp" and recognition. Oliver has always written to express gratitude, but, for all her meditativeness, what engages her most is not placidity but passion: wind-twisted trees, birds of prey, river rapids, darkness, and love. And as Oliver intends, her poems do indeed make us "shiver with praise." --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Oliver has made a career out of sharing her sense of awe, elation and gratitude before the natural world. In her ninth book of poems (White Pine, etc.), she's still hitting the same notes: "Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider/ the perfection of the morning star." But here, the author of the Pultizer Prize-winning American Primitive seems more interested in her own amazement than in what amazes her. The specificity of the natural world blurs before a wonder that's often more didactic than inspiring as Oliver sternly admonishes us to see the beauty that surrounds us. Rather than capture the rhythms of what she sees, her lines seem to be broken easily, yielding a kind of complacency: "I was walking/ over the dunes when I saw/ the red fox." There are fine moments, such as "Seven White Butterflies" and "Dogs," each of which finds an energetic rhythm to match its subject. But most of these poems lack the acuteness of vision that makes Oliver's best work something very much more than vaguely spiritual sentiment attached to images of wildlife and nature. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Although her papers may scatter as the west wind sweeps through her room, Oliver's house is in order. From the chaos of the world, her poems distill what it means to be human and what is worthwhile about life. Echoing the Romantics and Whitman, she affirms the value of aloneness with nature, of watching and listening‘not just to get it down as art but simply to live it: "And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists/ of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money,/ I don't even want to come in out of the rain." While practically every poem in this collection is about death, joy and death are inseparable: "If there is life after the earth-life, will you come with me?" The prose-poem referred to in the title‘a 13-part series addressed to a lover‘sums up a humble life lived to the fullest in a cricket's imagined musings: "It thought: `here I am still, in my black suit, warm and content'‘and drew a little music from its dark thighs." For all collections.‘Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.