Likely Stories: New and Selected Poems: Volume Two, by Mary Oliver

Aug 24, 2017

A collection of new and selected works by one of today’s finest poets.


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

I recently found Mary Oliver’s collection New and Selected Poems: Volume Two.  The connection I have to her poems is ethereal and pleasing in every sense of the word.  If I have a model to follow, it would most certainly be Mary Oliver.  I have talked about her in several reviews, so this one will only include selections from volume two.

“Work, Sometimes.”  “I was sad all day, and why not.  There I was, books piled on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words falling off my tongue. // The robins had a long time singing, and now it was beginning to rain. // What are we sure of?  Happiness isn’t a town on a map, or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work ongoing.  Which is not likely to be the trifling around with a poem” (6).

“Of What Surrounds Me.”  Whatever it is I am saying, I always / need a leaf or a flower, if not an / entire field.  As for the sky, I am so wildly / in love with each day’s inventions, cool blue / or cat gray or full / of the ships of clouds, I simply can’t / say whatever it is I am saying without / a least one skyful.  That leaves water, a / creek or a well, river or ocean, it has to be / there.  For the heart to be there.  For the pen / to be poised.  For the idea to come.”  (32).

“The Faces of Deer.”  When for too long I don’t go deep enough into the woods to see them, they begin to enter my dreams.  Yes, there they are, in the pinewoods of my inner life.  I want to live a life full of modesty and praise.  Each hoof of each animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches then lifts away from the ground.  Unless you believe that heaven is very near, how will you find it?  Their eyes are pools in which one would be content, on any summer afternoon, to swim away through the door of the world.  Then, love and its blessing.  Then: heaven.” (33).

“The Owl Who Comes.”  “The owl who comes / through the dark / to sit / in the black boughs of the apple tree // and stare down / the hook of his beak, / dead silent, / and his eyes, // like two moons / in the distance, / soft and shining / under their heavy lashes-- // like the most beautiful lie-- / is thinking / of nothing / as he watches // and waits to see / what might appear, / briskly, out of the seamless, // deep winter-- / out of the teeming / world below-- / and if I wish the owl luck, / and I do, / what am I wishing for that other / soft life, / climbing through the snow? // What we must do, / I suppose, / is to hope the world keeps its balance; // what we are to do, however, / with our hearts / waiting and watching—truly / I do not know.” (52-53).

Like so many of her poems, I felt a deep connection to these and many other.  Mary Oliver’s collection, New and Selected Poems: Volume Two, will take you places to see things in a new light.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories and happy reading!