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What Do We Know

4.42 of 5 stars 4.42  ·  rating details  ·  277 ratings  ·  27 reviews
"Mary Oliver's poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing," wrote Stanley Kunitz many years ago; and recently, Rita Dove described her last volume, The Leaf and the Cloud, as "a brilliant meditation." For the many admirers of Mary Oliver's dazzling poetry and luminous vision, as well as for those who may be coming to her work for the first time, What Do We Know will...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published March 27th 2003 by Da Capo Press (first published 2002)
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This is my fave Mary Oliver's poem:

Now Are the Rough Things Smooth

Now are the rough things smooth, and the smooth things stand in flickering slats, facing the slow tarnish of sun-fall. Summer is over, or nearly. And therefore the green is not green anymore but yellow, beige, russet, rust; all the darknesses are beginning to settle in. And therefore why pray to permanence, why not pray to impermanence, to change, to -- whatever comes next. Willingness is next to godliness. Once I watched a swallo...more
This isn't Mary Oliver's most solid book of poems, I'm guessing. Truth be told, I haven't read any of her other books. But I have read parts of her "greatest hits" collection and know that she has some amazing poems. This book contains, as the cover promises, "Poems and Prose Poems." A handful of the "poems" are quite good, including the amazing "On Losing a House" and "Her Grave, Again." The "prose poems" didn't really do anything for me. They felt like little journal entries, which isn't a bad...more
Oct 13, 2014 Joan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver's nature poems combine the spiritual with her imagery of the world around her. A truly beautiful read.
I have several favorites from this book- The Hummingbird (It's morning, and again I am that lucky person who is in it.); Blue Iris (And my heart panics not to be, as I long to be, the empty, waiting, pure, speechless receptacle.); and Snowy Night (I just stood there, listening and holding out my hands to the soft glitter falling through the air. I love this world, but not for its answers.).
I could have a whole Mary Oliver bookshelf--and do. The two poems I love most in this one are "On Loosing a House" and "Gratitude" in which she poetically ponders the questions: What did you notice? What did you hear? What did you admire? What astonished you? What would you like to see again? What was most tender? What was most wonderful? What did you think was happening?
Though some of her more nature-inspired poetry doesn't strike a chord with me (not my thing, really), many of her other poems really jumped out at me. Her simple, somewhat unconventional, writing style can be very poignant. I really enjoyed these poems, and I'm going to check out more of her work.
To see as Mary Oliver sees (and to dare hope to write as she writes!), would be the greatest gift imaginable. To see grace in every creature and to be struck with amazement by every shaft of light and ocean wave would be a glorious way to live. I'll have what she's having!
Jan 06, 2010 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Wild Geese introduced me to Mary Oliver years ago, and it's been confirmed that she's incapable of writing a bad poem. Or of publishing a bad poem. p.30, On Losing a House, is a favorite of this collection, and has the phrase "O mossy money" burned into my mind.
Aug 24, 2013 carmie added it
Shelves: poetry
Absolutely beautiful, soul-enriching. In particular, "Winter at Herring Cove."

"But here's the kingdom we call remembrance
with its thousand iron doors
through which I pass so easily,

switching on the old lights as I go-"

Her poetry is a balm for the soul.
There are a few wonderful poems in here, but overall, I can't help feeling that some of the work is a little too light and fluffy, somewhat corny... which is a surprise, I'm usually a big fan of nature-inspired work.
Mads P.
I really enjoyed reading these poems. They were a peaceful respite after my journey to India. I need to come back when I have the book in front of me and list some of my favorite poems here.
Reading Mary Oliver always takes the soul on a journey to places that it has always known, but we often forget. What it finds there is peacefulness and awareness of a grand scale.
It's hard to write lucid reviews of poetry, so I'll only say that Oliver's is luminous and thoughtful, and there are a handful of poems in every volume that make me feel changed.
Eliza T. Williamson
Another magnificent collection from Mary Oliver--do yourself a favor and if you don't know Mary Oliver, get to know her!
Chris Mower
Reading Mary Oliver's poetry is like taking a breathe of fresh air. It's clean, simple, and stunningly beautiful.
Jul 18, 2011 Trista added it
Shelves: poetry
"Attention is the beginning of devotion." You are what you think, and I want to see the world as Mary Oliver does.
Never really liked poetry about nature until I read Mary Oliver. My favorite: "Her Grave, Again."
Michele Yates
Beautifully articulated images. Almost prayers. Mary Oliver's poems make me optimistic.
Ruth Harper
It is important to be alert to all the world offers us on a daily basis.
I really like Mary Oliver's poems and recommend any of her collections.
If you love poetry and haven't experienced Mary Oliver you are missing out.
i enjoy the author's sense of humor and irony. love all her books.
Maughn Gregory
Mary Oliver is one of a few writers who can make me feel reverent.
"On Losing a House" is my favorite here.
Lauren Tenney
life is beautiful. poems help show why.
Lovely, as usual.
Kevin Fanning
Nov 25, 2012 Kevin Fanning marked it as to-read
Shelves: poetry
revisit this later.
Carrie is currently reading it
Oct 23, 2014
Julia marked it as to-read
Oct 15, 2014
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

“Mary Oliver. In a region that has produced most of the nation's poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observati...more
More about Mary Oliver...
New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 A Thousand Mornings American Primitive Why I Wake Early Thirst

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“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
“Sometimes I really believe it, that I am going to
save my life

a little.”
More quotes…