New and Selected Poems: Volume Two

( 5 )


Understand, I am always trying to figure out what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape-

New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, an anthology of forty-two new poems-an entire volume in itself-and sixty-nine poems hand-picked by Mary Oliver from six of her last eight books, is a major addition to a career in poetry that has spanned nearly five decades. Now recognized as an...

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New and Selected Poems, Volume Two

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Understand, I am always trying to figure out what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape-

New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, an anthology of forty-two new poems-an entire volume in itself-and sixty-nine poems hand-picked by Mary Oliver from six of her last eight books, is a major addition to a career in poetry that has spanned nearly five decades. Now recognized as an unparalleled poet of the natural world, Mary Oliver writes with unmatched dexterity and a profound appreciation for the divergence and convergence of all living things.

Mary Oliver is always searching for the soul of things. In poem after poem, her investigations go from the humble green bean that nourishes her and makes her wonder if "something/-I can't name it-watches as I walk the/rows, accepting the gift of their lives/to assist mine" to the vast, untouchable bliss of "things you can't reach./But you can reach out to them, and all day long./The wind, the bird flying away./The idea of God." Oliver's search grows and is informed by experience, meditation, perception, and discernment. And all the while, during her quest, she is constantly surprised and fortified by joy.

This graceful volume, designed to be paired with New and Selected Poems, Volume One, includes new poems on birds, toads, flowers, insects, bodies of water, and the extraordinary experience of the everyday in our lives. In the words of Alicia Ostriker,'Mary Oliver moves by instinct, faith, and determination. She is among our finest poets, and still growing.' In both the older and new poems, Mary Oliver is a poet at the height of her control of image and language.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Reviewing the first volume of Mary Oliver's 1992 New and Selected Poems, fellow poet Stephen Dobyns praised it for "the consistency of tone over this long period" and "an increased precision with language." This critical praise is reaffirmed by this volume from the National Book Award-winning poet. It contains poetry from eight previous collections, including Oliver's Pulitzer book, American Primitive, plus 30 new poems.
From the Publisher
Praise for the poetry of Mary Oliver:

"Far beneath the surface-flash of linguistic effect, Mary Oliver works her quiet and mysterious spell. It is a true spell, unlike any other poet's, the enchantment of the true maker."--James Dickey

"Oliver's often quiet persona almost always rides a storm of discovery . . . She continues to earn applause and admiration for continuing to provide redemptive mediation and supple praises for nature in a time when so much is under threat."--R. T. Smith, Shenandoah

"These are life enhancing and redemptive poems that coax the sublime from the subliminal."--Sally Connolly, Poetry

"Mary Oliver's poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations."--Stanley Kunitz

"Oliver's poems are thoroughly convincing-as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring."--New York Times Book Review

"The gift of Oliver's poetry is that she communicates the beauty she finds in the world and makes it unforgettable."--Miami Herald

Publishers Weekly
Following by 13 years her National Book Award-winning New and Selected Volume One, this big and very quotable collection offers more of what Oliver's fans revere: optimistic, clear and lyrical explorations of varying ecosystems, (especially the birds, mammals, ponds and forests of the northeastern U.S.) mingled with rapt self-questioning, consolation and spiritual claims some might call prayers. One of the 42 new poems watches ravens on a "morning of green tenderness and/ rain"; others describe a mockingbird, a white heron, an obedient dog, tiger lilies, deer, terns, blueberry fields on Cape Cod (where Oliver lives) and a "Mountain Lion on East Hill Road," glimpsed just "once, years ago." Poems reprinted from six earlier books (beginning with 1994's White Pine) broaden the focus to insect life, to weather and the seasons ("I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky") and to other parts of the U.S.; while most poems use a mellifluous free verse, some choose the simplicities of prose, a form best achieved in Winter Hours (1999). (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection brings together poetry from eight of Oliver's previously published books and 30 new poems. In all of her work, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Primitive , Oliver, ``full of curiosity,'' writes about the natural world, engaging the entwined processes of life and death. ``Amazement'' figures in her persistent attention to things seen: ``If you notice anything / it leads you to notice / more / and more.'' Description then leads to meditation, a leap beyond the material world. Fundamentally religious in impulse, many of the poems move quickly away from concrete description. Metaphors are not quite grounded in the real; rather, they are asserted, declared. Of a bear the one poem's speaker notes, ``all day I think of her-- / her white teeth, her wordlessness, her perfect love.'' Even though this bear flicks the grass with her tongue, sharpens her claws against the ``silence/of the trees,'' the reader cannot quite see her. It's as if Oliver reports on mysteries rather than embodying them. And so, despite its undeniable music, her work too often becomes rhetorical; too often its earnestness turns preachy and its feeling becomes sentimental. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This collection is drawn from seven previous books and includes 30 new poems (written in 1991 and 1992). Since her Pulitzer Prize-winning American Primitive ( LJ 2/15/83), Oliver has continued to examine the natural world and its mysteries. There is a delightful, almost naive voice speaking in ``A Certain Sharpness in the Morning Air,'' where encountering a skunk with ``the white stripe like a river/ running down its spine'' becomes an occasion for celebrating the shaggy ``wild life of the fields.'' Oliver's ability to fashion an image is evident in ``Water Snake,'' where the shy reptile looks at the poet with ``gravel eyes'' and probes the air with ``the feather of his tongue.'' Other creatures inspire poems, as do lilies, ponds, skunk cabbage, and moccasin flowers. But these are more than odes to nature. Oliver writes with a sure touch and a simple elegance of other concerns: the acceptance of fate, the shortness of life, the inevitability of loss and suffering. Her poems express the human need to be at home in the world until we rise and fall ``into something better.''-- Francis Poole, Univ. of Delaware Lib., Newark
Donna Seaman
Oliver's unassuming, pastoral poems have won numerous awards, including the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This lyrical retrospective brings together selections from her eight previously published volumes and is crowned by 30 new poems that continue and extend her tribute to the perfection of nature. Oliver's poems are beautifully simple and direct, reflecting the elegant, unquestionable rightness of earth and sky, plants and animals. For her, every breeze, breath, color, creature, flower, motion, succumbing and devouring, is a wonder and a gift. Fear is a revelation, death a cleansing, peace a coveted, achievable state of mind, of heart. As Oliver writes of rain, peonies, owls, rice, the sun, waterfalls, a skunk, an alligator, or a deer, she chides us for forgetting the steady joy of life, for seeking riches other than those given us by our senses. In writing about the dazzle of goldenrod, she asks, "And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far, / that is better than these light-filled bodies?" At least hers has brought us these gentle songs and smiling prayers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807068861
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 689,921
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, is one of the most celebrated and best-selling poets in America. Her books include Why I Wake Early, Owls and Other Fantasies, House of Light, Dream Work, White Pine, West Wind, The Leaf and the Cloud, and What Do We Know, as well as four books of prose, including Blue Pastures, Rules for the Dance, and Winter Hours. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2006

    Gorgeous Writing

    Oh my goodness. Seriously the most beautiful poems ever written about nature and the soul. So breath-taking, moving me to tears. You can literally smell the wonderful fragrance coming from these poems.Her observance of nature is unsurpassed. Simply Marvelous.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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