What a perfect collection this love letter to the earth is. Mary Oliver is so tuned in to the natural world around her; the way she allows it to speak through her onto paper, and reflect back to us all the truth, always awes and astounds. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
One of O, The Oprah Magazine's Ten Best Books of the Year!
The New York Times bestselling collection of essays from beloved poet, Mary Oliver.
"In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be."
So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood "friend" Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, "a place to enter, and in which to feel," and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, "I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple."
Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.
"Upstream is a testament to a lifetime of paying attention, and an invitation to readers to do the same." Christian Science Monitor
"A tremendously vitalizing read...grounding and elevating at the same time." Brain Pickings
"When reading Mary Oliver in any form — poetry or prose — you oughtn't be surprised when suddenly you find yourself at a full stop. When you come across a sentence so arresting in its beauty — its construction, its word choice, its truths — you can't help but pause, hit "reread," and await the transformative soaking-in, the awakening of mind and soul that's sure to settle deeply." Chicago Tribune
"Uniting essays from Oliver's previous books and elsewhere, this gem of a collection offers a compelling synthesis of the poet's thoughts on the natural, spiritual and artistic worlds . . . With each page, the book gains accumulative power. The various threads intertwine and become taut."
The New York Times
About the Author
Born in a small town in Ohio, Mary Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28. Over the course of her long career, she received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Bennington College, where she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. She died in 2019.