When New and Selected Poems, Volume One was originally published in 1992, Mary Oliver was awarded the National Book Award. In the fourteen years since its initial appearance it has become one of the best-selling volumes of poetry in the country. This collection features thirty poems published only in this volume as well as selections from the poet's first eight books.
Mary Oliver's perceptive, brilliantly crafted poems about the natural landscape and the fundamental questions of life and death have won high praise from critics and readers alike. In -The Summer Day, - she asks, -Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?- -Do you love this world?- she interrupts a poem about peonies to ask the reader. -Do you cherish your humble and silky life?- She makes us see the extraordinary in our everyday lives, how something as common as light can be -an invitation / to happiness, / and that happiness, / when it's done right, / is a kind of holiness, / palpable and redemptive.- She illuminates how a near miss with an alligator can be the catalyst for seeing the world -as if for the second time/the way it really is.- Oliver's passionate demonstrations of delight are powerful reminders of the bond between every individual, all living things, and the natural world.
One of the astonishing aspects of Oliver's work is the consistency of tone over this long period. 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
"One would have to reach back perhaps to [John] Clare or [Christopher] Smart to safely cite a parallel to Oliver's lyricism or radical purification and her unappeasable mania for signs and wonders." -David Barber, Poetry
"I have always thought of poems as my companions-and like companions, they accompany you wherever the journey (or the afternoon) might lead . . . My most recent companion has been Mary Oliver's The Leaf and the Cloud . . . It's a brilliant meditation, a walk through the natural world with one of our preeminent contemporary poets." -Rita Dove, Washington Post
"Mary Oliver moves by instinct, faith, and determination. She is among our finest poets, and still growing." -Alicia Ostriker, The Nation