new and selected poems

New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver

Only three stars here is less a criticism of Oliver and more of the collection, though perhaps the honest middle ground is that I found that her work that I prefer is the more recent. When I found myself sort of skimming or finding an entire section less readable than others and went back to the beginning of the section, I most often found it was the older work that wasn't holding my attention. 

Prior to this collection, I've only read full independent volumes of her work, and all likely within the last five years or so. 

There are, of course, still lovely shiny bits.

"All my life
I have been restless - 
I have felt there is something
more wonderful than gloss - 
than wholeness -
than staying home. 
I have not been sure what it is."


"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on."


"Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body.

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything, 
even the great whale,
throbs with song."


"To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal; 
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go."


From a single grain they have multiplied. 
When you look in the eyes of one
you have seen them all.

At the edges of highways
they pick at limp things.
They are anything but refined. 

Or they fly over the corn
like pellets of black fire, 
like overlords. 

Crow is crow, you say.
What else is there to say?
Drive down any road, 

take a train or an airplane
across the world, leave
your old life behind, 

die and be born again - 
wherever you arrive
they'll be there first, 

glossy and rowdy
and indistinguishable.
The deep muscle of the world.