American Primitive Paperback – Apr 30 1983
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About the Author
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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."
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Beautiful. A great place to start if a reader has not read Oliver before. Not to be missed.Published on Feb. 11 2004
This book humbles me. I have been writing poetry for many years, and I'm an avid reader of poetry. I am amazed by the level and awareness Mary Oliver brings to the surface of human... Read morePublished on March 31 2000 by R. Frost
Very powerful use of language,...in a subtle way. The use of image-metaphor to our state of "being" is awesome. Mary Oliver is a brilliant author. Read morePublished on March 28 2000 by kdenzer
A wonderful book that moves me everytime I read it. It is a book that explores the natural world and how nature merges with our own internal landscapes. An important book!Published on March 23 2000 by Michael Spring
If you're idea of naturalism is wearing Birkenstock sandals, talking about "animal nature in the eyes of wolves" while sipping overpriced twig tea from your local health... Read morePublished on Sept. 20 1999
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