Cover image for Why I wake early : new poems
Why I wake early : new poems
Oliver, Mary, 1935-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
ix, 71 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3565.L5 W48 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Mary Oliver has been writing poetry for nearly five decades, and in that time she has become America's foremost poetic voice on our experience of the physical world. This collection presents forty-seven new poems, all written within the last two years, and each exhibiting the power and grace that have become the hallmarks of Oliver's work.

The volume includes poems on crickets, toads, trout lilies, black snakes, goldenrod, bears, greeting the morning, watching the deer and, finally, lingering in happiness. Each poem is imbued with the extraordinary perceptions of a poet who considers the everyday in our lives and the natural world around us and finds a multitude of reasons to marvel.

On the eve of the publication of her third volume of poems, Twelve Moons, Archibald MacLeish wrote to Mary Oliver: "You have indeed entered the kingdom. You have done something better than create your own world: you have discovered the world we all live in and do not see and cannot feel."

In the twenty-five years since, Mary Oliver has published nine more volumes of poetry, each revealing new aspects of our world, inviting us to pause with her and to see and feel them. In this new volume she demonstrates, perhaps more affectionately than ever before, "what it means to be human and what is worthwhile about life,"* or, more simply, why the poet wakes early. (* Library Journal )

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 1

Booklist Review

Oliver is beloved for the directness and clarity with which she celebrates the beauty, ingenuity, and bounty of the natural world, whether it's the grandeur of the ocean or the joyfulness of dogs. In "Mindful," one of the 40 new poems gathered in the second volume of Oliver's resonant New and Selected Poems0 (the first was published in 1992), she declares: "It is what I was born for-- / to look, to listen." In "Bone" she writes, "Understand, I am always trying to figure out / what the soul is." These are the undertakings of a spiritual poet, and Oliver extols the devotional habits of attentiveness and gratitude as she describes her walking meditations and conducts her unique form of metaphysical inquiry. Prayerful new poems harmonize beautifully with selections from six earlier collections, including What Do Wenow 0 (2002) and The Leaf and the Cloud0 (2000). Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her poetry, Oliver also writes exquisitely lucid prose. Here, in her most generously personal essays to date, she articulates the beliefs, observations, and inspirations that feed her poetry as she contemplates the majestic beauty of the earth and its splendid creatures, including humankind. Oliver ponders death and remembrance, marvels over the unexpected boon of an old town dump, considers the indelible impression left by childhood revelations of the power and mystery of nature, and reveals her literary legacy in a set of sterling tributes to Wordsworth, Emerson, and Hawthorne. And, finally, this essential American poet literally brings it all home in a radiant reflection on the crucial "connection between soul and landscape." --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist