Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems

Mary Oliver, Author, Mary Cliver, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (256p) ISBN 978-0-395-85084-8
The usually remote and discreet Oliver, who has won the NBA and Pulitzer Prize for her poetry, comes to the autobiographical fore in this odd miscellany. The prose piece ""Sister Turtle"" tells of how Oliver, in an act of weird communion with a mother turtle she tracks through the woods, breaks her vegetarian regime to eat the eggs she thieves from the turtle's sandy nest. ""Swoon"" gorgeously describes a spider weaving her ""chaotic"" web in the corner of a rented house's stairwell, her egg sac like a ""Lilliputian gas balloon."" When the spider, dramatic and balletic, kills a windfall cricket, Oliver's close attention to and lack of ease with nature make this essay more immediate and arresting than the collection's several poems. The continuation of the ""Sand Dabs"" series from two earlier books includes, in ""Sand Dabs, Four"" deflated lines like ""The arena of things, the theater of the imagination, the everywhere of faith."" Her inspirational abstractions--""Does the grain of sand/Know it is a grain of sand?""--cast doubt upon the stronger lines by association. As a belle lettrist--the collection contains brief meditations on Poe, Frost, Hopkins and Whitman--Oliver is clear and winningly didactic, but the collection as a whole never quite feels cohesive or purposeful. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
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