A prolific writer with more than 20 volumes of verse to her credit, Ms. Oliver, whose work appeared often in The New Yorker and other magazines, was a phenomenon: a poet whose work sold strongly. Her books frequently appeared on the best-seller list of the Poetry Foundation , which uses data from Nielsen BookScan, a service that tracks book sales, putting her on a par with Billy Collins, the former poet laureate of the United States, as one of the best-selling poets in the country.
Her poems, which are built of unadorned language and accessible imagery, have a pedagogical, almost homiletic quality. It was this, combined with their relative brevity, that seemed to endear her work to a broad public, including clerics, who quoted it in their sermons; poetry therapists, who found its uplifting sensibility well suited to their work; composers, like Ronald Perera and Augusta Read Thomas, who set it to music; and celebrities like Laura Bush and Maria Shriver.
All this, combined with the throngs that turned out for her public readings , conspired to give Ms. Oliver, fairly late in life, the aura of a reluctant, bookish rock star. Throughout her work, Ms. Read on one level, these poems are sensualist still lifes: Often set in and around the woods, marshes and tide pools of Provincetown, Mass. I lift my face to the pale flowers.
He says the smells are rising now. The rain.
My dog returns and barks fiercely, he says. For her abiding communion with nature, Ms. Oliver was often compared to Walt Whitman and Robert Frost. For her quiet, measured observations, and for her fiercely private personal mien she gave many readings but few interviews, saying she wanted her work to speak for itself , she was likened to Emily Dickinson.
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92-year-old’s poem on aging shines light on how we should live our lives
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Sort order. Jun 08, mwpm rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry. Rushing headlong into new silence your face dips on my horizon the name of a cherished dream riding my anchor one sweet season to cast off on another voyage No reckoning allowed save the marvelous arithmetic of distance - Smelling the Wind , pg. In Cancer the most fertile of skysigns I shall build a house that will stand forever. The girls who live at the edge of the calm pool where the moon rises teach me to leave dreams alone. Dec 17, aya rated it it was amazing.
Really feeling her spacing and phrasing. Jan 05, Matthew rated it really liked it. Not my favorite collection by one of my favorite poets, but still full of lines I would never see from another writer and poems that take me deep into whatever it is poems are. Interesting period politics--apartheid, East Berlin, Jesse Helms--and a testament to art, memory, and survival. This book came late in her life, and I wonder how I'll feel differently when I read this book late in my life.
Feb 17, Sameer Vasta rated it it was amazing. This reflection was originally published on inthemargins.
A Celebrated Princeton Poet Organizes a Festival of His Peers
A few days later, we were to hand in our poems to the teacher, who would look them over that afternoon, and we would then recite them out loud to the class the next day. The morning after handing mine in, my teacher pulled me aside and told me she needed to see me after class; I would not be allowed to read my poem to the rest of the class, that day.
Crestfallen, I listened to the work of my friends, and cheered them on. That afternoon, before getting on the bus, my teacher pulled me aside and asked, "who taught you how to write this? Unlike the acrostics, haikus, limericks, and quatrains we were learning about in class and that most of my peers had written, my poem was three pages long, written in sestets with an aabbab rhyme sequence. It was an ode to a young lady in my class—I think her name was Michelle A—where I did not mention her, but instead how the world changed when she entered the room.
The imagery was rudimentary and the diction plain, but it was different enough from what we were learning that my teacher was perplexed. The honest truth was that I had discovered Wordsworth earlier that year and was so impressed by his poetry that I had spent weeks imitating his style. The nuance of his language and much of his content was above my head, but by the time I got around to reading "Lucy Gray," it did not matter that I did not understand what he was saying, but instead that the musicality of his language was enthralling.
I wanted to write poems that sounded like song, and so I attempted to do that in my sprawling three-page ode. I did end up being allowed to read my poem in class the next day. The subject of the ode was oblivious; she did not see herself in the words, and like the rest of the class, thought me pretentious and too much of a try-hard.
They were all right, of course. I didn't know what I was doing, but instead was trying to impress others with my feeble imitation.
Cultivating wonder: Locals on the late, great Mary Oliver
Into my late teens, I continued to write poetry, and was lucky enough to have a few of my pieces printed in small journals and magazines. And then, one day, I stopped. I stopped writing poetry, and I stopped reading it. Until this year. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss. Yes, there is discussion about meter and rhyme, but Oliver opens the book with an in-depth look at sound, at how the way we read poetry is an aural experience, and how it is that sound that makes poetry resonate—both metaphorically and literally, when read out loud.