One of the astonishing aspects of Oliver's work is the consistency of tone over this long period. What changes is an increased focus on nature and an increased precision with language that has made her one of our very best poets. --Stephen Dobyns, New York Times Book Review
Mary Oliver has published fifteen volumes of poetry and five books of prose in the span of four decades, but she rarely performs her poetry in live readings. Now, with the arrival of At Blackwater Pond, Mary Oliver has given her audience what they've longed to hear: the poet's voice reading her own work. In this beautifully produced compact disc, Mary Oliver has recorded forty of her favorite poems, nearly spanning the length of her career, from Dream Work through her newest volume, New and Selected Poems, Volume Two. The package is shrink-wrapped so that the elegant clothbound audiobook can takes its place on the poetry shelf. It also includes a fifteen-page booklet with an original essay, "Performance Note," photos of the author at Blackwater Pond, and a full listing of the poems and their sources.
Much of the work of the poet is a mystery, but the last labor is clear; it is the deliverance of the poem. Often this happens through a manuscript or a book, but it can occur in a vocal way also. Has everyone at some time looked up the original meaning of performance? It means, says Webster, 'to finish, to complete.' The poem is meant to be given away, best of all by the spoken presentation of it; then the work is complete. Which makes performance sound, does it not, like part of the life-work of the poem, which I think it is. As if the poem itself had an independent life, or the endless possibility of its own life, in minds other than the poet's, which I think it has.--Mary Oliver, from "Performance Note," an original essay first published in At Blackwater Pond