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American Primitive Paperback – Apr 30 1983


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American Primitive + Dream Work + New and Selected Poems, Volume One
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (April 30 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316650048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316650045
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #238,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
When the blackberries hang swollen in the woods, in the brambles nobody owns, I spend all day among the high branches, reaching my ripped arms, thinking of nothing, cramming the black honey of summer into my mouth; all day my body accepts what it is. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
To read any poem by Mary Oliver is to be in the presence of the exquisite potential of language for marrying beauty and wisdom. Rarely a poet, so inclined not to impose her view nor her beliefs on anyone, can leave such profound impression on how we may come to see the world. And to read -to live, really- each poem of "American Primitive" is to educate your heart.
Someone said, very appropriately so, that Oliver's poems may have the less humans in them than any contemporary poet's body of work, yet in the case of this magnificent book, two of its most stunning choices -"John Chapman" and "The Lost Children"- has Oliver bring the same keen compassion and awe for the tragic and the gracious in being our kind, that she does when speaking of foxes, mushrooms, or crows and owls.
"John Chapman," for instance, contains some of the wisest lines about being one of us, humans, that you will find in American poetry. Chapman was the real John Appleseed who "thought little, / on a rainy night, / of sharing the shelter of a hollow log touching / flesh with any creatures there" and, yet, as a woman in the poems recalls "he spoke / only once of women and his gray eyes / brittled into ice. "Some / are deceivers," he whispered, and she felt / the pain of it, remembered it / into her old age."
I wonder if Oliver chose him because he lived his life during those times when this country was learning to be this country -and perhaps because of it- we were, for the last time, as close as a species to the rest of nature as we ever had.
"The Lost Children" is also about those times too, yet about those of one kind taken by those who were the natives to this land.
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Format: Paperback
I was really impressed by "American Primitive," the collection of poems by Mary Oliver. I knew that this book was special when I got to the third poem, "The Kitten." This poem about a stillborn kitten stopped me dead in my tracks. Painful yet beautiful, tragic yet transcendent, it sets a powerful tone for the collection as a whole.
And "American Primitive" does indeed strike me as a unified whole. It consists mostly of poems about American wildlife, with some poems that touch on people in United States history. The poems are often about the cycles of life, including birth, death, and loss. In some poems eating becomes a transcendent act that points to the connectedness of all life.
Oliver writes about mushrooms, blackberries, crows, egrets, deer, snakes, whales, and other living things. She also writes about such natural phenomena as snow and sunlight. Her language is often striking and sensuous. I love the lines from "Spring" where she says "The rain / rubs its shining hands all over me." With her attentiveness to the natural world, Oliver reminded me somewhat of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, but she really has a voice and vision all her own in "American Primitive."
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Format: Paperback
Three Tenors, Riverdance, Deepak Chopra... Add Mary Oliver to the list of contemporary swill that bloats our self-indulgent and self-important mass culture. The current fad in poetry has been to take care not to make the real, "too real" (and therefore disturbing to most consumers). But to drape it in a gauzy romanticism, making the truths that exist in this world harmless and safe for consumption by an audience who want nothing more than to continue in a sheltered belief of a gentle anthropomorphic world.
The fact that this received a Pulitzer says less about the work and more about the sheer lack of discerning taste on the part of the Pulitzer committee.
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Format: Paperback
American Primitive won the Pulitzer prize but did not win my heart, my mind, my thoughts. I could not become enthusiastic or excited about the poet's words. They were bland, dull and had no meaning of consequence. None of her poetry struck me as a "mantra", words I would entrust to my soul and would embrace, as part of my living. I was saddened that this was the book that received so much acclaim. Shame, Shame! In contrast to Dream Work, this book is shabby. I am thankful I read Dream Work prior to reading American Primitive. If the sequence had been reversed, I would never have been exposed to the loveliness and sensibility of Dream Work.
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Format: Paperback
If you don't, you just might find it here. Oliver writes in snatches of brilliant lyrical imagery, yet weaves those bits together without fail into something larger than the reader expects. She is the master at making oblique connections to truths we know subconsciously, and she uses startling, beautiful, and fresh language to do so. When one reads Oliver's poems, it is the equivalent of wandering the streets of a new city amazed by the strange and wonderful sights and smells, only to round a corner and slam into your oldest friend. These poems are ideas your soul already knows, but your mind rarely does. Oliver is the translator between the two.
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By A Customer on May 8 1999
Format: Paperback
Anyone having had a close study of the body of human verse would recognize the mastery in Mary Oliver's poetry. American Primitive deserves all of the recognition it has received. It ties the elegance of transcendence to the reality of the contemporary world. It is a celebration of the human being and the human being's life-long companion, nature. Oliver's use of the English languge is polished, well-crafted, and wild. Mary Oliver's work takes its place along side of Kunitz, Milosz, and other contemporary masters. I was licking the pages. And, by the way, "P. Larkin," you're not fooling anyone.
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