Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could. So begins Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, and the image of that fiery bird stays with the reader, appearing in unexpected forms and guises until, in a postscript, he explains himself: "For truly the body needs / a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, / the soul has need of a body, / and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable / beauty of heaven / where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, / and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart."
This collection of sixty-one new poems, the most ever in a single volume of Oliver's work, includes an entirely new direction in the poet's work: a cycle of eleven linked love poems-a dazzling achievement. As in all of Mary Oliver's work, the pages overflow with her keen observation of the natural world and her gratitude for its gifts, for the many people she has loved in her seventy years, as well as for her disobedient dog, Percy. But here, too, the poet's attention turns with ferocity to the degradation of the Earth and the denigration of the peoples of the world by those who love power. Red Bird is unquestionably Mary Oliver's most wide-ranging volume to date.
One of few avidly read living poets, Oliver revels in the beauty of the living world, and takes to heart its lessons in patience and pleasure, cessation and renewal. As piercingly observant as ever in this substantial and forthright collection, Oliver is rhapsodic.—Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Her poems pop up at many of life's turning points, including death. Readers go to her for solace, regeneration and inspiration . . . After a few hours in her quiet, exuberant presence, one feels as though the raw sunlight in the room, the brightness of the water, the white wood and flashing wings outside the window are bleaching unimportant details from the day."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
"A collection of poems that is moving, intense and evocative in its engagement of the natural world."—Angela O'Donnell, America
"Mary Oliver ranks among the finest poets the English language has ever produced. Whether she's describing a caterpillar's transformation . . . or describing her own mystical connection to birdsong . . . she almost always can come up with striking, resonant images. . . . Oliver observes with great sensitivity, and puts her impressions in verse in a way that few can match. . . . Her poetry is rigorous, beautiful, well written, and offers genuine insights into the natural world."—Eli Lehrer, The Weekly Standard