Cover image for Winter hours : prose, prose poems, and poems
Winter hours : prose, prose poems, and poems
Oliver, Mary, 1935-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 109 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3565.L5 W56 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, her most personal book yet "What good company Mary Oliver is!" the Los Angeles Times has remarked. And never more so than in this extraordinary and engaging gathering of nine essays, accompanied by a brief selection of new prose poems and poems. (One of the essays has been chosen as among the best of the year by THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 1998, another by The Anchor Essay Annual.) With the grace and precision that have won her legions of admirers, Oliver talks here of turtle eggs and housebuilding, of her surprise at an unexpected whistling she hears, of the "thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else." She talks of her own poems and of some of her favorite poets: Poe, writing of "our inescapable destiny," Frost and his ability to convey at once that "everything is all right, and everything is not all right," the "unmistakably joyful" Hopkins, and Whitman, seeking through his poetry "the replication of a miracle." And Oliver offers us a glimpse as well of her "private and natural self -- something that must in the future be taken into consideration by any who would claim to know me."

Author Notes

Mary Oliver was born in Maple Heights, Ohio on September 10, 1935. She attended Ohio State University and Vassar College, but did not receive a degree. Her first collection of poems, No Voyage and Other Poems, was published in 1963. Her other works include White Pine, West Wind, Why I Wake Early, Thirst, Red Bird, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, A Thousand Mornings, and Blue Horses: Poems. She has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive, the Christopher Award and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light, and the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems.

Her books of prose include A Poetry Handbook, Blue Pastures, Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, and Long Life: Essays and Other Writings. She held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College from 1995 to 2001.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

After nearly four decades of writing and publishing poetry and two invaluable books about poetics, most recently Rules for the Dance , Oliver has set aside the frames of form and the mask of her poetic persona to share memories and meditations in essays made of both poetry and prose. Writing with the knowingness born of many years of devotion to observation and expression, Oliver declares her unceasing love of nature, the source of her art, and her willingness to embrace what most people resent: the shift in tone and meter age brings. She describes, for example, her pleasure in building things out of wood, a physical endeavor that balanced the often torturous stillness of writing, then confides that nowadays, she prefers wood at rest, a discarded plank, a fallen tree. But Oliver is vital to the core, and hungry still for poetry--her literary essays are masterful--and all the sensuous beauty of the natural world: birds and turtles, pine trees and wind, spiders and moss, ocean and sand. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0395850843Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 abstractionsÄ"Does the grain of sand/Know it is a grain of sand?"Äcast doubt upon the stronger lines by association. As a belle lettristÄthe collection contains brief meditations on Poe, Frost, Hopkins and WhitmanÄOliver is clear and winningly didactic, but the collection as a whole never quite feels cohesive or purposeful. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



To believe in the soul -- to believe in it exactly as much and as hardily as one believes in a mountain, say, or a fingernail, which is ever in view -- imagine the consequences! Excerpted from Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems by Mary Oliver All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.