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“Joy is not made to be a crumb,” writes Mary Oliver, and certainly joy abounds in her new book of poetry and prose poems. Swan, her twentieth volume, shows us that, though we may be “made out of the dust of stars,” we are of the world she vividly captures here: the acorn that hides within it an entire tree; the wings of the swan like the stretching light of the river; the frogs singing in the shallows; the mockingbird dancing in air. Swan is Oliver’s tribute to “the mortal way” of desiring and living in the world, to which the poet is renowned for having always been “totally loyal.”
As the Los Angeles Times noted, innumerable readers go to Oliver’s poetry “for solace, regeneration and inspiration.” Few poets express the immense complexities of human experience as skillfully, or capture so memorably the smallest nuances. It is no wonder Oliver ranks, according to the Weekly Standard, “among the finest poets the English language has ever produced.”
“One of the astonishing aspects of Oliver’s work is the consistency of tone over this long period [of her career]. What changes is an increased focus on nature and an increased precision with language that has made her one of our very best poets. . . . Although few poets have fewer human beings in their poems than Mary Oliver, it is ironic that few poets also go so far to help us forward.”–Stephen Dobyns, New York Times Book Review
“Mary Oliver’s poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations.”–Stanley Kunitz
“Mary Oliver’s poems are natural growths out of a loam of perception and feeling, and instinctive skill with language makes them seem effortless. Reading them is a sensual delight.”–May Swenson