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Owls and Other Fantasies


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About the Author

Mary Oliver, winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, was acknowledged by theNew York Times Book Reviewas one of this country's best-selling poets. Her books of poetry includeEvidence,Red Bird, Thirst,andNew and Selected Poems , Volumes OneandTwo. Her works of prose includeOur World, Long Life,andA Poetry Handbook. She has recorded two audio books,At Blackwater PondandMany Miles. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Hobe Sound, Florida.


Alternating poems, short essays and drawings of feathers, Oliver's 12th collection is strongest and most direct when using the first person to show the second a path to the good life: "You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting/ You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." Many of the poems take up moments of attention to, and are titled for, birds: goldfinches "having a melodious argument"; hummingbirds as "tiny fireworks"; herons "in the black, polished water"; starlings "Chunky and noisy/ but with stars in their black feathers"; and the local crow, of whom she says "I have never seen anything brighter." Oliver won a Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive (1984) and a National Book Award for New and Selected Poems (1992). If this book lacks some of the urgency of earlier work, it has been replaced by a confidence that seems less about writing highly crafted poems than about rendering the moment, whether of observation or imagination, simply and easily, whether in prose or verse. As an essay on a "black-backed gull" Oliver rescued puts it, "no matter how hard I try to tell this story, it's not like it was," but the best of these 28 pieces seem to get close. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Oliver has gained enormous popularity in recent years for the accessible yet highly articulate and profound treatment she gives each poem. In this collection, she focuses her wakeful attention on wildlife, primarily birds. Thus, bird enthusiasts will enjoy this book, even if they don't customarily read poetry. The poems in this slim volume are interwoven with short prose pieces; those about looking for a horned owl's nest and an achingly touching story about a rescued seagull are among the most memorable. The theme of aging runs throughout the work-life as a panorama, a landscape, through which the poet moves toward its end, observing as she goes the disparate natures of most humans and animals. Speaking of a catbird, Oliver writes: "For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars./ For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings." Describing hummingbirds: "in their pale-green dresses;/ then they rose, tiny fireworks,/ into the leaves." An unmistakable Buddhist influence shows itself in poems such as "Yes! No!" with its final line, "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." This new title will bring much pleasure to the many readers who claim Oliver as their favorite poet, as well as to people new to her work. Very highly recommended.-Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Mary Oliver is beautiful and accurate in this book of poetry and prose about birds . . . all rendered with the precision of a line-drawing of a single feather that puts the entire wing into perspective.--Orion

What we have here are moral essays in prose and verse, passionate meditations on the conduct of life. You will be the wiser-as I believe I am-for having read them.--Frank Wilson, Philadelphia Inquirer These poems and essays dazzle us and then send us into deep reflection about the marvels and mysteries of life that come to us in the sightings, songs, and soaring of birds.--Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Health Owls and Other Fantasies will bring much pleasure to the many readers who claim Oliver as their favorite poet, as well as to people new to her work. --Judy Clarence, Booklist This...title will bring much pleasure to the many readers who claim Oliver as their favorite poet, as well as to people new to her work.--Library Journal A Book Sense 76 Selection in January 2004

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