New and Selected Poems | Critical Review by Lee Upton

This literature criticism consists of approximately 1 page of analysis & critique of New and Selected Poems.
This section contains 238 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Lee Upton

Critical Review by Lee Upton

SOURCE: "Inside History," in Belles Lettres, Vol. 6, No. 4, Summer, 1991, pp. 42-4.

In the following review, Upton notes Oliver's connection of dissimilar images in House of Light.

Mary Oliver is yet another mature poet—one with whom many of us have much greater familiarity. While Eavan Boland works with domestic interiors, Mary Oliver sets her lens in nature. She writes of lilies and turtles and owls as if each possessed a soul and a singular identity. At times she echoes Walt Whitman, finding peace among animals for their very lack of consciousness, their inability to quarrel or irritate. Despite the note of horror and sudden menace in this book, she proceeds with near mystical love for her subjects.

For Oliver, every day must have "one splash of happiness." Her own happiness seems to arise from connecting images and actions that initially appear dissimilar and arbitrary.

Some of her virtues are immediately apparent in "Looking for Snakes." What is pretty and what is repulsive thrive in the same patch. Two snakes "rise / in a spit of energy / like dark stalks / among the wild, pink roses." The imagination is part of that same natural order.

What is the world but "hunger and happiness," Oliver asks. And she challenges her readers with what amounts to a fierce attention to the moment, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"

(read more)

This section contains 238 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Lee Upton