Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape—
New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, an anthology of forty-two new poems—an entire volume in itself—and sixty-nine poems hand-picked by Mary Oliver from six of her last eight books, is a major addition to a career in poetry that has spanned nearly five decades. Now recognized as an unparalleled poet of the natural world, Mary Oliver writes with unmatched dexterity and a profound appreciation for the divergence and convergence of all living things.
Mary Oliver is always searching for the soul of things. In poem after poem, her investigations go from the humble green bean that nourishes her and makes her wonder if “something / —I can’t name it—watches as I walk the / rows, accepting the gift of their lives / to assist mine” to the vast, untouchable bliss of “things you can’t reach. / But you can reach out to them, and all day long. / The wind, the bird flying away. / The idea of God.” Oliver’s search grows and is informed by experience, meditation, perception, and discernment. And all the while, during her quest, she is constantly surprised and fortified by joy.
“In a region that has produced most of the nation’s poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world. Her “Wild Geese” has become so popular it now graces posters in dorm rooms across the land. But don’t hold that against her. Read almost anything in New and Selected Poems. She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.”
—Renée Loth, Boston Globe