Cover image for Owls and other fantasies : poems and essays
Owls and other fantasies : poems and essays
Oliver, Mary, 1935-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
67 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3565.L5 O95 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Within these pages Mary Oliver collects twenty-six of her poems about the birds that have been such an important part of her life-hawks, hummingbirds, and herons; kingfishers, catbirds, and crows; swans, swallows and, of course, the snowy owl, among a dozen others-including ten poems that have never before been collected. She adds two beautifully crafted essays, "Owls," selected for the Best American Essays series, and "Bird," a new essay that will surely take its place among the classics of the genre.In the words of the poet Stanley Kunitz, "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."For anyone who values poetry and essays, for anyone who cares about birds, Owls and Other Fantasies will be a treasured gift; for those who love both, it will be essential reading.

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

Publisher's Weekly Review

Alternating poems, short essays and drawings of feathers, Oliver's 12th collection is strongest and most direct when using the first person to show the second a path to the good life: "You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting/ You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." Many of the poems take up moments of attention to, and are titled for, birds: goldfinches "having a melodious argument"; hummingbirds as "tiny fireworks"; herons "in the black, polished water"; starlings "Chunky and noisy/ but with stars in their black feathers"; and the local crow, of whom she says "I have never seen anything brighter." Oliver won a Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive (1984) and a National Book Award for New and Selected Poems (1992). If this book lacks some of the urgency of earlier work, it has been replaced by a confidence that seems less about writing highly crafted poems than about rendering the moment, whether of observation or imagination, simply and easily, whether in prose or verse. As an essay on a "black-backed gull" Oliver rescued puts it, "no matter how hard I try to tell this story, it's not like it was," but the best of these 28 pieces seem to get close. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Oliver has gained enormous popularity in recent years for the accessible yet highly articulate and profound treatment she gives each poem. In this collection, she focuses her wakeful attention on wildlife, primarily birds. Thus, bird enthusiasts will enjoy this book, even if they don't customarily read poetry. The poems in this slim volume are interwoven with short prose pieces; those about looking for a horned owl's nest and an achingly touching story about a rescued seagull are among the most memorable. The theme of aging runs throughout the work-life as a panorama, a landscape, through which the poet moves toward its end, observing as she goes the disparate natures of most humans and animals. Speaking of a catbird, Oliver writes: "For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars./ For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings." Describing hummingbirds: "in their pale-green dresses;/ then they rose, tiny fireworks,/ into the leaves." An unmistakable Buddhist influence shows itself in poems such as "Yes! No!" with its final line, "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." This new title will bring much pleasure to the many readers who claim Oliver as their favorite poet, as well as to people new to her work. Very highly recommended.-Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.