|New books on writing poetry. Highlights of Poetry. Index of poetry. How to Write Poetry.|
How to write specific forms:
Haibun. Haiku. Hay(na)ku. Rengay. Tanka.
Concrete. Ghazal. Lai. Pantoum. Prose poem. Rondeau. Rubáiyát.
Sestina. Skaldic verse. Sonnet. Terza rima. Triolet. Tritina. Villanelle.
The Beowulf Poet. Billy Collins. Billy Collins exercise.
Snorri's Edda. Carl Dennis. Charles Atkinson. Chase Twichell. Corey Marks.
François Villon Franz Wright. Galway Kinnell. Gary Young. The Gawain Poet.
Jack Gilbert. Jane Hirshfield. Jean Vengua. J. Zimmerman. J. Zimmerman (haibun). J. Zimmerman (haiku). J. Zimmerman (tanka).
Jorie Graham. Joseph (Joe) Stroud. Karen Braucher. Karl Shapiro. Kay Ryan.
Laureate Poets: Britain; USA.
Len Anderson. Les Murray. Li-Young Lee. Linda Pastan. Louise Glück.
Mary Oliver. Nordic Skalds. Pulitzer Poetry Prize (U.S.A). Richard Hugo. Robert Bly.
Sappho. Sara Teasdale. Sharon Olds. Shiki (haiku). Snorri's Edda. Stephen Dunn.
Ted Kooser. W.S. Merwin.
Books of Poetry (alphabetical). Prose. Editing. Time Line. Books.
Mary Oliver's tone relies heavily on the ecstatic and the shamanistic, on the throwing of her consciousness into various of the birds she writes about, and returning to her page to tell us what they feel and think. Use of the pathetic fallacy is so heavy that sometimes it is gushy, predictable, routine, and boring.
She is more successful (as in examples below for Owls and Other Fantasies) when she gives herself distance as an observer and metaphor maker.
|American Primitive (1983)|
|Blue Iris: Poems and Essays (2004)|
|Dream Work (1986)|
|House of Light (1990)|
Leaf and the Cloud, (The) (2000, prose poem)
Quite good in parts. The usual Oliver controlled ecstatic.
She calls the whole book a prose poem (even though she uses line breaks whereas a prose poem is usually not laid out like a poem). Perhaps the seven named sections would be called poems in other books. Each of these sections has numbered subsections (usually 7 but sometimes 10 or 12). Her style is of subdued ecstasy with a tendency to repetition. For example, subsection 8 of the first section ("Flare") is:
The poem is not the world. It isn't even the first page of the world. But the poem wants to flower, like a flower. It knows that much. It wants to open itself, like the door of a little temple, so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed, and less yourself than part of everything.
The title comes from the remarkable Modern Painters by John Rushkin, in this quoted chapter:
Between the earth and man arose the leaf. Between the heaven and man came the cloud. His life being partly as the falling leaf, and partly as the flying vapour.
|New and Selected Poems Volume One (1992)|
|New and Selected Poems Volume Two (2005)|
|Night Traveler, (The) (1978)|
|No Voyage and Other Poems (1963, first edition; 1965, expanded edition)|
Owls and Other Fantasies (2003)
Her tone relies heavily on the ecstatic and the shamanistic, on the throwing of her consciousness into various of the birds she writes about, and returning to her page to tell us what they feel and think. Use of the pathetic fallacy is so heavy that at times it is predictable, routine, and boring.
For me, Oliver is more successful as an observer and metaphor maker, as in the glorious "Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard", whose (partial) opening stanza is:
His beak could open a bottle,
and his eyes [...]
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder --
or the Book of Revelation.
Similar success is in "White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field", whose center is:
so I thought:
isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us --
as soft as feathers --
Included poems that appeared earlier in her books:
and one poem ("White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field") that was previously published only in:
Periodicals in which some poems appeared are:
The essay ("Owls") first appeared in Orion and was reprinted in The Best American Essays 1996 and then in her own book:
Red Bird (2008)
One of her finest books. Favorite poems are many and include:
Still, there are so many small bodies in the world, for which I am afraid
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
|River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems, (The) (1972)|
Dedication: "For Molly Malone Cook (1925-2005)".
A book of love and loss. Favorite poems include:
|A Thousand Mornings (2012)|
A pretty good collection in the now-familiar Mary Oliver voice.
|Twelve Moons (1978)|
West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems (1997)
It's an okay book in three parts. Part one has the regular Mary Oliver type poems, of which her "Black Oaks" is the best example, ending:
Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a little sunshine, a little rain. Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from one boot to another—why don't you get going? For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees. 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.
Part two is the 13-section poem "West Wind" with 8 of the sections being prose poems.
Part three is a multi-stanza 5-section poem "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches".
|What Do We Know (2002)|
|White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems (1994)|
Why I Wake Early (2004)
Good (in a Mary-Oliver way) but nothing spectacular. Favorite poems include:
|Blue Pastures (1995)|
Fifteen prose pieces on nature, writing, and herself.
A Poetry Handbook (1994, prose)
A concise and deft introduction to the craft and spirit of writing poetry.
|[T]he poem needs to be reliable. I cannot say too many times how powerful the techniques of line length and line breaks are. You cannot swing the lines around, or fling strong-sounding words, or scatter soft ones, to no purpose. A reader beginning a poem is like someone stepping into a rowboat with a stranger at the oars; the first few draws on the long oars through the deep water tell a lot — is one safe, or is one apt to be soon drowned?|
|The free-verse poem sets up, in terms of sound and line, a premise or an expectation, and then, before the poem finishes, it makes a good response to this premise. This is the poem's design. What it sets up in the beginning it sings back to, all the way, attaining a felt integrity.|
|[D]iction has several components — the sound of the word; the accuracy of the word; and its connotation — that atmosphere ... that is created by word choice.|
This suggests MO would not take enthusiastically to much English-language haiku, from p.88-9:
|Just as the ellipsis, which is trying to imply a weighty "something" that has not been said but that the poet wants felt, is a construction of weakness, so too is the dangling phrase. The phrase with no verb — no action and no placement — is more apt to sink the ship than to float it.|
|I write poems for a stranger who will be born in some distant country hundreds of years from now. ... I usually revise through forty or fifty drafts of a poem before I begin to be content with it. Other poets take longer. ... But this is the usual way: hard work, hard work, hard work. This is the way it is done.|
|[T]he poem requires of the writer not society or instruction, but a patch of unbroken solitude. ... The poem, as it starts to form in the writer's mind, and on paper, can't abide interruption. ... To interrupt the writer from the line of thought is to wake the dreamer from the dream. The dreamer cannot enter that dream, precisely as it was unfolding, ever again because the line of thought is more than that: it is a line of feeling as well. ... An interruption into the writing of a poem is as severe as any break into a passionate run of feeling.|
|I cherish [a sentence] ... by Flaubert. I came upon it among Van Gogh's letters. It says, simply, "Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of will and of intense observation."|
|Winter hours: prose, prose poems, and poems (1999)|
From her "Once":
|What is autobiography anyway but a story rich and impossible of completion -- an intense, careful, expressive, self-interested failure?|
|In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us. This is Poe's real story. And it is ours. ... [But] the later poems -- beginning with the volume West-Running Brook, say -- less commonly have that sense of a private man working at the conflicts in his life... The poems become, in the later books, entertainments and pronouncements. ... despair, wed to fortitude[,] ... is the dense emotion at the center of Frost's work. ... He could not hear the trill of the trees without the cry of the roots.|
|In the lyrical poems of Robert Frost there is almost always something wrong, a dissatisfaction or distress. ... We are hearing two different messages: everything is all right, say the meter and the rhyme; everything is not all right, say the words. ... He writes about our own inescapable destiny.|
|[A] poetry of rapture and pain, of the perfection of God and the awkwardness and imperfection of the poet.|
[H]is was a sensibility so passionate, so affirmative and optimistic,
that it is fair to speak of him as writing out of a kind of hovering mystical cloud.
... "Song of Myself" is sprinkled with questions ...
More than sixty questions in all, and not one of them easily answerable.
Nor, indeed, are they presented for answers, but to force open the soul.
... It is supposed that a writer writes what he knows about knows well. It is not necessarily so. A writer's subject may just as well, if not more likely, be what the writer longs for and dreams about, in an unquenchable dream, in lush detail and harsh honesty.
... His message was clear from the first and never changed: that a better, richer life is available to us. ... his methods are endlessly suggestive rather than demonstrative, and ... their main attempt was to move the reader toward response rather than reflection. ... Brawn and spirit, we are built of light, and God is within us. This is the message of his long, honeyed harangue.
I am a performing artist; I perform admiration. Come with me, I want my poems to say. And do the same.
Morning, for me, is the time of best work.
My conscious thought sings like a bird in a cage,
but the rest of me is singing too,
like a bird in the wind.
In the act of writing a poem ... [w]hat I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing in one's ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of it as taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical and spooky. ... the first act of writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening.
Included poems that appeared earlier in her book:
Poems and essays were previously published in:
The essay ("Building the House") first appeared in Shenandoah and was reprinted in The Best American Essays 1990.
100 Essential Modern Poems By Women (2008)
edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton.
|Books of Poetry Form. Alphabetic list of poetry forms and related topics.|
© 2008-2013 by J. Zimmerman,
except for the quoted poems.
All rights reserved.
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