About the Author:
Mary Oliver is the author of more than ten volumes of poetry and prose, including American Primitive, New and Selected Poems, A Poetry Handbook, West Wind, Rules for the Dance, and, most recently, Winter Hours. Her many accolades include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Lannan Literary Award; in 1999 she received the New England Book Award for Literary Excellence from the New England Booksellers Association. The first part of The Leaf and the Cloud was selected for inclusion in The Best American Poetry 1999 and the second part, "Work," will be in The Best American Poetry 2000. Mary Oliver holds the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College, and lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Bennington, Vermont.
From Publishers Weekly:
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 utterancesA"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"Awith 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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.