In The Truro Bear and Other Adventures, Mary Oliver brings together ten new poems, thirty-five of her classic poems, and two essays, all about mammals, insects, and reptiles. The award-winning poet considers beasts of all kinds: bears, snakes, spiders, porcupines, humpback whales, hermit crabs, and, of course, her beloved and disobedient little dog, Percy, who appears and even speaks in thirteen poems, the closing section of this volume.
As Renée Loth has observed in the Boston Globe, “Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world . . . She teaches us the profound act of paying attention.”
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Copyright @ 1990 by Mary Oliver. First published in House of Light, Beacon Press. Reprinted in The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays, Beacon Press.
Table of Contents
The Chance to Love Everything
One Hundred White-sided Dolphins on a Summer Day
Carrying the Snake to the Garden
This Is the One
At Herring Cove
Coyote in the Dark, Coyotes Remembered
The Other Kingdoms
Swimming with Otter
Five A.M. in the Pinewoods
The Snow Cricket
The Truro Bear
The Hermit Crab
How Turtles Come to Spend the Winter in the Aquarium, Then Are Flown South and Released Back Into the Sea
The Poet Goes to Indiana
The Summer Day
Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night (Three)
News of Percy (Five)
Percy and Books (Eight)
I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life (Ten)
Percy at His Bath, or, Ambivalence (Eleven)
Percy at Breakfast (Twelve)
Percy Speaks While I Am Doing Taxes (Thirteen)
“One of the astonishing aspects of Oliver’s work is the consistency of tone over this long period [of her career]. What changes is an increased focus on nature and an increased precision with language that has made her one of our very best poets . . . There is no complaint in Ms. Oliver’s poetry, no whining, but neither is there the sense that life is in any way easy . . . These poems sustain us rather than divert us. Although few poets have fewer human beings in their poems than Mary Oliver, it is ironic that few poets also go so far to help us forward.”
—Stephen Dobyns, New York Times Book Review