Blue Pastures

Mary Oliver, Author Mariner Books $14.95 (136p) ISBN 978-0-15-600215-8
For better and for worse, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Oliver is a Romantic--capital R. She is enamored of nature, not the cute nature of spring flowers/ prancing fawns but Edmund Burke's awe-ful nature, with its ``scream of the owl, which is not of pain and hopelessness and the fear of being plucked out of the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer.'' Less fortunately, she also buys into romanticism's egomania: ``My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth... My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o'clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.'' As in her previous prose volume, A Poetry Handbook, Oliver meditates on her hard-to-define art and goes on to consider her inspirations--Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Muir, Walt Whitman. But the best part of the book is Oliver's plein-air poetizing, consisting of tidbits almost all jotted down ``somewhere out-of-doors'': in her partial observations of nature (``Just at the lacey edge of the sea, a dolphin's skull''), her exhortations (``You must not ever stop being whimsical'') or an evocative list (``Molasses, an orange, fennel seed, anise seed, rye flour, two cakes of yeast''), readers catch the first whiffs of poetry. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/13/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
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