West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems

Overview

The New York Times has called Oliver's poems "thoroughly convincing - as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring." In this stunning collection of forty poems she writes of nature and love, of the way they transform over time. And the way they remain constant. To quote Library Journal: "From the chaos of the world, her poems distill what it means to be human and what is worthwhile about life."

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West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems

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Overview

The New York Times has called Oliver's poems "thoroughly convincing - as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring." In this stunning collection of forty poems she writes of nature and love, of the way they transform over time. And the way they remain constant. To quote Library Journal: "From the chaos of the world, her poems distill what it means to be human and what is worthwhile about life."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"From the chaos of the world, her poems distill what it means to be human and what is worthwhile about life." Library Journal
Albert Mobilio

A quick survey of the first lines of the first few poems in Mary Oliver's West Wind makes clear that the poet is an animal lover: "Seven white butterflies/delicate in a hurry," "owl/make your little appearance now," "This morning/the dogs/were romping and stomping," "This morning/two birds/fell down the side of the maple tree," "A band of wild turkeys is coming down the hill" or "The meadowlark, with his yellow breast and a sort of limping flight." These shopworn scenes of the peaceable kingdom inaugurate poems unable to veer off the flower-petal strewn path their openings predicate; their mild-mannered rusticity is disturbed just slightly by ominous undertones of "mossy shadows." We learn that the owl looks down and sees how "everything/trembles/then settles/from mere incidence into/the lush of meaning." Now that's one wise owl.

If only I could believe Oliver's "lush of meaning" is a drunken hunter intent on gunning down the owl, but alas, I know different. Prize winner -- the Pulitzer and National Book Award -- that she is, Oliver is among the ranks of much feted versifiers whose precious, so very "poetic" work appears wholly untouched by a century's worth of cartoons, flame throwers, be-bop drummers and a few dozen revolutions of sensibility. Instead, she offers trite coffee-cup insights: "I don't want to sell my life for money,/I don't even want to come in out of the rain." Or how about: "a black ant traveling/briskly modestly/from day to day from one/golden page to another." Ah, the modest ant. He too, it seems, drinks in the "lush of meaning." As you might need a drink yourself after handling, oh so delicately, Oliver's kitschy knickknacks. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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)
Library Journal
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 titlea 13-part series addressed to a loversums 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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395850855
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 78
  • Sales rank: 778,637
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 9.78 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Oliver

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.

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Table of Contents

Seven White Butterflies 3
At Round Pond 4
Black Oaks 5
The Dog Has Run Off Again 6
Am I Not Among the Early Risers 7
Pilot Snake 9
So 10
Spring 12
Stars 13
Three Songs 15
Shelley 18
Maples 20
The Osprey 21
That Sweet Flute John Clare 23
Sand Dabs, Three 24
Forty Years 26
Black Snake This Time 27
Morning Walk 29
Rain, Tree, Thunder and Lightning 31
The Rapture 32
Fox 34
Gratitude 35
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith 36
Dogs 38
At the Shore 40
At Great Pond 41
If there is life after the earth-life, will you come with me? 45
You are young. So you know everything 46
And the speck of my heart 47
But how did you come burning down 48
There are night birds, in the garden 48
When the sun goes down 49
We see Bill only occasionally 51
The young, tall English poet 52
And what did you think love would be like? 53
Dark is as dark does 54
Now only the humorous shadows 55
The cricket did not actually seek 56
It is midnight, or almost 57
Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches 61
Acknowledgments 65
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