By Mary Oliver
Beacon Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780807068922, 78pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could. So begins Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, and the image of that fiery bird stays with the reader, appearing in unexpected forms and guises until, in a postscript, he explains himself: "For truly the body needs / a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, / the soul has need of a body, / and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable / beauty of heaven / where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, / and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."
This collection of sixty-one new poems, the most ever in a single volume of Oliver's work, includes an entirely new direction in the poet's work: a cycle of eleven linked love poems-a dazzling achievement. As in all of Mary Oliver's work, the pages overflow with her keen observation of the natural world and her gratitude for its gifts, for the many people she has loved in her seventy years, as well as for her disobedient dog, Percy. But here, too, the poet's attention turns with ferocity to the degradation of the Earth and the denigration of the peoples of the world by those who love power. Red Bird is unquestionably Mary Oliver's most wide-ranging volume to date.
Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world . . . She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.—Renée Loth, Boston Globe
"It has always seemed . . . that Mary Oliver might leave us any minute. Even a 1984 Pulitzer Prize couldn't pin her to the ground. She'd change quietly into a heron or a bear and fly or walk off forever. Her poems contain windows, doors, transformations, hints on how to escape the body; there's the 'glamour of death' and the 'life after the earth-life.' This urge to be transformed is yoked to a joy in this moment, this life, this body."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
"'My work is loving the world,' Oliver tells us . . . She has always done that work . . . in poems of considerable beauty. Now she rises, not above the world, but through it."—Jay Parini, The Guardian