Mary Oliver is one of the most celebrated and best-selling poets in America. Her books include Red Bird; Our World; Thirst; Blue Iris; New and Selected Poems, Volume One; and New and Selected Poems, Volume Two. She has also published five books of prose, including Rules for the Dance and, most recently, Long Life. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
American Primitiveby Mary Oliver, Mary Cliver
The fifty poems in American Primitive make up a body of luminous unity. Mary Oliver's visionary poems enunciate the renewals of nature and the renewals of humanity in love, in oneness with the natural, in union with the things of this world. Lyrical and elegiac, Mary Oliver celebrates the primitiave things of America - the wilderness that survives both within our bodies and outside - in "...the cords/ of my body stretching/ and singing in the/ heaven of appetite."
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'Every year everything I have ever learned in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss, whose other side is salvation. . . To live in this world you must be able to do three things: To love what is mortal; and to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and when the time comes, to let it go.' This is Mary Oliver's 'The Three Things,' from American Primitive. This is one of my favorite poems. It helped me to memorialize a deceased friend in 1997 when my heart was breaking. I recently quoted it in a note of sympathy to a friend. American Primitive is an excellent book, and I recommend it for anyone who is going through times of great feeling.