Cover image for The leaf and the cloud
The leaf and the cloud
Oliver, Mary, 1935-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[New York] : Da Capo Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
55 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3565.L5 L4 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



With piercing clarity and craftsmanship, Mary Oliver has fashioned an unforgettable poem of questioning and discovery, about what is observable and what is not, about what passes and what persists. As Stanley Kunitz has said: Mary Oliver's poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations.""

Author Notes

Mary Oliver was born in Cleveland, 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. She wrote more than 20 volumes of poetry including The River Styx, Ohio; The Leaf and the Cloud; Evidence; Blue Horses; and Felicity. She received several 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, 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. She died on January 17, 2019 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

An exquisite book-length poem by a poet devoted to close scrutiny of the natural world and exact, sensuous, and ecstatic description. Lyrical and philosophical in the American transcendental tradition, Oliver addresses her readers directly to ravishing effect, and there is magic and wisdom in her gleaming language and aesthetically arresting metaphors. Here she offers instructions for living: "When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider / the orderliness of the world." Accepting the mantle of age, Oliver declares, "I am a woman sixty years old, and glory is my work." And glory is her gift to readers as she contemplates, as though for the first time, flowers, stone, water, the joyful grace of bounding dogs, the surprise of a snake, and the way words, love, and the sky open to us when we stay still, listen, and look. Bathed in the glow of all that she surveys, Oliver observes that death, too, is part of life's order and therefore beautiful. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Oliver's seven-part book-length poem takes its title from Ruskin: "Between the earth and man arose the leaf. Between the heaven and man came the cloud." Oliver's speaker meditates on her own mortality, feels her body "rising through the water/ not much more than a leaf," and declares that she "believes in God,/ though she has no word for it." Wandering wide-eyed through poem, book and world, she can seem too obviously faux na‹ve, more stentorian than Marianne Moore-like: "my mother, alas, alas,/ did not always love her life,/ heavier than iron it was/ as she carried it in her arms/ from room to room,/ oh, unforgettable!" Indeed, many of the interrogatives here seem to come right out of a children's book ("Did you know that the ant has a tongue/ with which to gather in all that it can/ of sweetness?// Did you know that?") as do the apostrophes: "and will you find yourself finally wanting to forget/ all enclosures, including// the enclosure of yourself, o lonely leaf." Oliver at her best is less self-consciously playful, whether considering "the mosquito's/ dark dart,/ flushing and groaning" or "the big owl, shaking herself/ out of the pitchpines." But preciousness mars the volume in section after section, undermining fresh utterancesÄ"I will sing for the Jains and their careful brooms./ I will sing for the salt and the pepper in their little towers on the clean table"Äwith a cartoonlike silliness: "I will sing for the two coyotes who came at me with their strong teeth/ and then, at the last moment, began to smile," or worse, with banal abstractions: "I will sing for what is in front of the veil, the floating light./ I will sing for what is behind the veil-light, light, and more light." While the speaker begins many of the lines in humility, she inevitably gets caught up in the wonder and frenzy of her own creations, making this book seem more like an ecstatic one-off than a substantial new collection from a Pulitzer Prize winner. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

"Welcome to the silly, comforting poem." So begins Oliver's new book-length poem in seven parts. The opening can be misleading. Those who are familiar with Oliver's work, though, will not be put off by the casual, almost flippant tone or the simplicity of language. They know that this, too, will be a smart, wonderful meditation, a rumination through and about Nature and death, a glimpse into our deepest, quietest selves: "I am a woman sixty years old and of no special courage./ EverydayDa little conversation with God, or his envoy/ the tall pine, or the grass-swimming cricket." Oliver has a knack for opening doors onto corridors that have long been closed off and forgotten. Few readers will be newcomers to Oliver's poems; she has won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award and deserves the heady reputation that goes with them. Her new work is a delight, at once exactly what her readers will expect and deserves yet amazingly fresh. Essential for any serious contemporary poetry collection.DLouis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Flarep. 1
Workp. 9
From The Book of Timep. 17
Riprapp. 25
Rhapsodyp. 33
Gravelp. 37
Evening Starp. 47
Acknowledgmentsp. 55