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Thirst: New Poems [Hardcover]

Mary Oliver

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Price: 12.70 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

31 Mar 2007
Thirst, a collection of forty-three new poems from the Pulitzer Prize-winner Mary Oliver, introduces two new directions in the poet's work. Grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years, she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not its end. And within these pages she chronicles for the first time her discovery of faith, without abandoning the love of the physical world that has been a hallmark of her work for four decades. In three stunning long poems, Oliver explores the dimensions and tests the parameters of religious doctrine, asking of being good, for example, "To what purpose? / Hope of Heaven? Not that. But to enter / the other kingdom: grace, and imagination, / and the multiple sympathies: to be as a leaf, a rose,/ a dolphin."

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  84 reviews
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars Squared... or exponentially beyond.... 7 Jan 2007
By Julie Jordan Scott - Published on Amazon.com
I thought to myself, "It must be about time for

Mary Oliver to have released another poetry

collection." and was so pleased to find

_Thirst_ on the shelf.

The moment I opened it I realized this was

going to be even more compelling than

nearly any other poetry I have ever read.

I sat in Barnes and Noble, crying openly,

laughing, smiling and revisiting poems

and phrases and just being amazed at the

transcendence I felt from Ms. Oliver's words.

This is a poetry book I will give to my

"non poetry" friends as well as my poetry


It is about the sacredness of life itself, it

is about love - never ending. It is about

coming to understand wholeness.

And so much more. It is difficult to express

with words how impactful this book is upon

my soul. As one reviewer said below, five stars

are not enough.
92 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith-Full Poems 31 Oct 2006
By S. West - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In the very first line of the very first poem of Mary Oliver's new collection of poetry, entitled Thirst, she says "My work is loving the world" (Messenger). In the very last poem of this slim volume, she says "Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart" (Thirst). These poems bookend a new affirmation of faith for Oliver: For the first time in her life, at the age of 71, she is writing from an apparent Christian framework, loving the world of marshes, ponds, beaches, bears and dogs and the Creator of all these things she has so long loved.

These are poems that celebrate the world of Creation, that praise the Creator, that walk through grief (Oliver lost her long time partner and agent, Molly Malone Cook, in 1995) into resolute hope, that point beyond nature and grief to the Giver of all. Her love of nature might be seen in the way she addresses it as addressing a good friend, as in "When I Am Among the Trees," where she says

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, "Stay awhile."

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,

"and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine."

There are poems about ribbon snakes, roses, a great moth, otters, Percy (her dog), and that great conversation ("And still I believe you will/ come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,/ the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea goose, know/ that really I am speaking to you" (Making the House Ready for the Lord).

And then there is grief. I loved this one (Percy (Four)), so simple, so true, about doing what need be done as we wait for grief to pass and life to go on, moving faithfully yet mutely through each day:

I went to church.

I walked on the beach

and played with Percy.

I answered the phone

and paid the bills.

I did the laundry.

I spoke her name

a hundred times.

I knelt in the dark

and said some holy words.

I went downstairs,

I watered the flowers,

I fed Percy.

That's it. No emotion here. She just did what needed to be done, including praying, though she was in that state where you seem to have lost all feeling.

In the end though, after the poems of creation and poems of grief, what stand out are the affirmations of faith. In "Coming to God: First Days," she says "Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake./ I would climb the highest tree/ to be that much closer." In "Six Recognitions of the Lord," she celebrates "everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,/ the hospitality of the Lord and my/ inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body/ through this water-lily world." And, at last, in "Thirst," she writes "Another morning and I wake with thirst/ for the goodness I do not have. I walk/ out to the pond and all the way God has/ given us such beautiful lessons."

Mary Oliver thirsts for God. Some will disagree with her lifestyle (Molly Malone Cook was truly her life partner), but her faith seems real as is her love of the world and her experience of grief. Those are things that must resonate with us, as we are human too.

Most helpful is the accessibility of these poems. Many people will be able to read and enjoy them. The language is simple yet elegant. The "space" in the poems created by their economy is an almost aural testimony to the awe with which she regards the life of the world and, now, the One who made it all.

I highly recommend this book of poetry. It's like walkiong through a room of Monet paintings: there's not much not to love. Use it to stimulate your own love of nature and of nature's God.
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Grief Edges Joy 7 Jan 2008
By Zinta Aistars - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Live long enough, live deep enough, and you will find, as Mary Oliver does in these 43 poems collected in "Thirst," that all grief edges joy, all joy is edged by grief. It is only in a deep and courageous immersion into life, and perhaps also that place beyond life, that one can fully experience this wonder, a kind of yin and yang, the light beside the shadow, phenomenon that is living with thirst, quenched or unquenched.

There is nothing pretentious about Oliver's poetry. She is simplicity and purity itself. Thirst is how she approaches living, and now dying - in her expression of grief for the loss of her longtime life partner. This does not change how she approaches living, only intensifies it. "My work is loving the world," she writes in her opening poem, "Messenger." She observes the world, then observes herself in it, part and parcel. "Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums./Here the clam deep in the speckled sand./Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?/Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me/keep my mind on what matters,/which is my work,/which is mostly standing still and learning to be/astonished."

Much of this collection is Oliver's conversation with God having a conversation with her. Their dialogue is filtered by nature, where everyplace is a place of worship and every living thing ministering to her and she reciprocating. Her dogs speak of unconditional love and simple acceptance, an exchanged gaze with a snake is looking into the eyes of divinity (and not the darker side). Praying can be done through the weeds in a vacant lot. The words do not have to be elaborate, Oliver writes, "but a doorway/into thanks, and a silence in which/another voice may speak." This same sentiment is echoed with utmost simplicity in the poem, "The Uses of Sorrow" - that a box full of darkness given to her by another can also be a gift, a richer blessing.

When you think you cannot go closer, or dive deeper, or come up into brighter light, as Oliver writes in her poetry - you can. Just when you think Oliver cannot elicit more beauty out of the everyday word - she does. We thirst for more.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only 29 Oct 2007
By Patricia Kramer - Published on Amazon.com
Other reviewers have spoken well of Mary Oliver's grief at the death of her partner and her search for God. I want to mention a poem that spoke to me and said "If only.". If only our leaders would read this poem, be touched by it to move in other directions.

Mozart,for Example

All the quick notes
Mozart didn't have time to use
before he entered the cloud-boat

are falling now from the beaks
of the finches
that have gathered from the joyous summer

into the hard winter
and, like Mozart, they speak of nothing
but light and delight,

though it is true, the heavy blades of the world
are still pounding underneath.
And this is what you can do too, maybe,

if you live simply and with a lyrical heart
in the cumbered neighborhoods or even,
as Mozart sometimes managed to, in a palace,

offering tune after tune after tune,
making some hard-hearted prince
prudent and kind, just by being happy.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars transcendently ordinary 9 Mar 2007
By Chris Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
mary oliver is a rare balm for the heart. while my mind appreciates her simply profound use of language, a deeper transmission seems to be occuring. her work is subtle in its invitation to taste of her experience. in her love of nature i find rest.
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