West Wind CL: Avail in Paper

Mary Oliver, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21 (63p) ISBN 978-0-395-85082-4
Oliver has made a career out of sharing her sense of awe, elation and gratitude before the natural world. In her ninth book of poems (White Pine, etc.), she's still hitting the same notes: ""Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider/ the perfection of the morning star."" But here, the author of the Pultizer Prize-winning American Primitive seems more interested in her own amazement than in what amazes her. The specificity of the natural world blurs before a wonder that's often more didactic than inspiring as Oliver sternly admonishes us to see the beauty that surrounds us. Rather than capture the rhythms of what she sees, her lines seem to be broken easily, yielding a kind of complacency: ""I was walking/ over the dunes when I saw/ the red fox."" There are fine moments, such as ""Seven White Butterflies"" and ""Dogs,"" each of which finds an energetic rhythm to match its subject. But most of these poems lack the acuteness of vision that makes Oliver's best work something very much more than vaguely spiritual sentiment attached to images of wildlife and nature. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
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