As Diane Wakoski has noted, the power of Mary Oliver's Frost-influenced pastoral writing is in her ability to cast a spell, to create "the illusion that the natural world is graspable." Oliver's fierce independence, beautiful imagery, and love and knowledge of the natural world are all driven by a searching mind, expressed in poems that make for good company. In Some Questions You Might Ask, Oliver gives us this one to chew over: "Is the soul solid, like iron?/ or is it tender and breakable, like/ the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?" Highly recommended.
From Publishers Weekly
This collection brings together poetry from eight of Oliver's previously published books and 30 new poems. In all of her work, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Primitive , Oliver, "full of curiosity," writes about the natural world, engaging the entwined processes of life and death. "Amazement" figures in her persistent attention to things seen: "If you notice anything / it leads you to notice / more / and more." Description then leads to meditation, a leap beyond the material world. Fundamentally religious in impulse, many of the poems move quickly away from concrete description. Metaphors are not quite grounded in the real; rather, they are asserted, declared. Of a bear the one poem's speaker notes, "all day I think of her-- / her white teeth, her wordlessness, her perfect love." Even though this bear flicks the grass with her tongue, sharpens her claws against the "silence/of the trees," the reader cannot quite see her. It's as if Oliver reports on mysteries rather than embodying them. And so, despite its undeniable music, her work too often becomes rhetorical; too often its earnestness turns preachy and its feeling becomes sentimental.
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