Red Bird
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Red Bird

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,091 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could. So begins Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, and the image of that fiery bird stays with the reader, appearing in unexpected forms and guises until, in a postscript, he explains himself: "For truly the body needs / a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, / the soul has need of...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Red Bird, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Red Bird

The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
444th out of 1,362 books — 1,487 voters
Our World by Mary OliverDream Work by Mary OliverNew and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 by Mary OliverNew and Selected Poems, Vol. 2 by Mary OliverA Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
Books by Lesbian Poets
42nd out of 83 books — 1 voter

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,692)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
brian tanabe
I read this a month or two ago in preparation for a reading last night -- I didn't quite know what to expect as I am somewhat new to Mary Oliver. Anyway, it was a beautiful night and an incredible reading. She was a bit older than I imagined and a bit more frail, but that is truly beside the point.

My original interpretation of the poems in Red Bird, perhaps due entirely to the way I read them, had a slight sensuality to them. Hearing Mary read aloud some of these poems (and from other collection...more
Nikki Nielsen
Mar 30, 2008 Nikki Nielsen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone that appreciates poetry
...and this is why I have been sent,
To teach this to your heart.

What a beautiful variety of poetry. I am new to Mary Oliver and can't wait to get my hands on more of her writing. She expresses love, appreciation for nature, gratitude, and even disappointment with those who are power hungry in a very flowing prose.

Books Ring Mah Bell
Yeah,I'm yelling at you , reading the Sandra Brown! Hey!! Put down the James Patterson and get your hands on this!! It will rock your poetic world.

GO! While you are out, pick up a copy for me, so I don't "forget" to give this back to my friend.
Roger DeBlanck
In rereading the work of Mary Oliver, I’m reminded why she is certainly one of the greatest American poets since Robert Frost. She is an inspiring poet, a visionary who quests after the essential matters of the heart and soul, of sorrow and joy, of what it means to be human. She is the quintessential poet in search of capturing the beauty and meaning of life, or more aptly how to understand her mortality in relation to the world around her, in all its triumphs and failures. Oliver writes verse t...more
I adore Mary Oliver, and I adore this book. While I may like individual poems in some of her other books better than any one poem in this book (as famous as it is, I still love "Wild Geese" with my whole heart, and I always will, this is my favorite book of hers. The entire collection reads like a book of prayers, and it is a beautifully centering, human and empathetic book. Here are just a few snippets:

From "Summer Morning"

Let the world
have its wa...more
My days have been difficult and dark of late. I don't know anything else but that deep space with no light; it's as if I have lived there always. This morning, I opened this book and found prayers for my life. I am not a deeply religious person but Mary Oliver's words have touched my soul deeply—they always have, anyway—and I thought, damn, there is nothing truer than this, right now: Sometimes / melancholy leaves me breathless. (Sometimes)

When she writes in Red Bird, "I know He has many childr...more
Summer Mornings

I implore you,
it’s time to come back
from the dark,

it’s morning,
the hill are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this
a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain-
graced as it is
with the ordinary.
Apr 14, 2008 Sallie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Virginnia Woods, Emma Rodewald
Shelves: salliesbookbox
I went to a reading of Mary Oliver's poems. She is wonderful of course. I didn't realize how funny she is...The book is lovely and great to keep on the night table for the occasional meditation.I have several of her books. She read 'Wild Geese' (I think that's the title)
I highly recommend reading this poem. It's an older poem and just beautiful. You can get it online
 Barb Bailey
Mary Oliver takes a very simple subjects and turns them into a works of art. I will be reading more of Oliver's poetry books. 5 Stars!
"it is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in this broken world." Mary Oliver
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

A beautiful collection. Deep and wise and gorgeous.
This falls between Evidence and Thirst for me, with a more sober tone, less spiritual, less earth ecstatic. Oliver brings some politics in, and it more pessimistic than I expected.

In the poem, Empire: not a shred of positivity to be found, and it saddens me; if she, at the end of her life, the singer of the music of the body that responds to nature’s energy, the celebrator of nature’s wonders, can’t muster up a more utopian view of how we will be perceived in the fullness of time, who would? I...more
Oliver uses a recurring theme of nature as expressed through the characters of the Red Bird and the Fox, her own reflection, and a dog named Percy. The thesis is a quote from Vincent Van Gogh, “To know God is to love many things.” The poem “Boundaries,” a personal favorite, says that there is this jump that can be made between where we are and home, among the stones and trees. This is the place where Oliver’s Red Bird and Fox sing. And these characters observe humans. The very next poem is “Stra...more
This collection represents quintessential Oliver.

She is in fine form here, notably in the poems, Invitation (p. 18), and Sometimes (p. 35). I noted twenty-five other exemplary poems, out of a collection of sixty-one.

When her words resonate, they sing. When they don't, they fall like flattened leaves.

I expected greatness in this collection and found goodness, with the exception of what I can only surmise are "filler" poems.

My only regret is that the filler poems exist at all, because, for me,...more
I was more than a little underwhelmed by award winning author Mary Oliver's poetry. Although it does embody great the American value of plain spoken unpretentiousness/straightforwardness, I found the writing uninspiring, lacking in word play, spontaneity, gallows humor and gravitas. It makes nice, light, quick reading if you're into that kind of thing. I will grudgingly admit that did like the Red Bird poems, for personal reasons.. Oliver is not bad; she's just not for me.
In order to read Red Bird, I had to open my mind. I have been hesitant about “nature poems” because some terrible teachers in high school instilled a deep aversion in me to “analyzing the trees.” I want to know about life!

Mary Oliver acknowledges grief, but focuses on the visions and sounds around her. The hard and soft language repeated has me whispering lines like “long, pink tongue” over and over. The musicality in the sequence of words adds to the liveliness of her subject.

Oliver writes abo...more
Annmarie Sheahan
"So everyday
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you."

This was a simple, gorgeous collection of poems by Mary Oliver, and the first I've read by her. I will definitely be reading more.

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."
Kathryn Dechairo
Mary Oliver's connection to nature is ever present in her work and, as someone who derives a lot of pleasure from nature too, her poems often resonated with me. Favorites of mine included Ocean, A River Far Away And Long Ago, Summer Story, Winter And The Nuthatch, and Red.
Much happier than I was with Thirst... here is one of my favorites:

Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears
Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

ugh! Poetry!! I found 3-4 poems in this collection that spoke to me, but the others? Meh! This was one of the monthly selections of my book group, otherwise I wouldn't have read it. Luckily it was a quick read. And as far as poetry goes, it was okay.
I loved this book. Definitely one of my favorite Mary Oliver collections. I was particularly struck by the poems in this book that concern words, and specifically, the writing of words. On one hand, Ms. Oliver ponders, words are everything. But on the other, they are nothing. She puts the image of herself, constantly finding beauty, joy, and anguish in writing and manipulating language, against the image of the red bird, the fox, the owl. In the natural world, of which she writes so much about,...more
p 11, from "Straight Talk from Fox" - I see you in all your seasons / making love, arguing, talking about God / as if he were an idea instead of the grass, / instead of the stars...

p 30, from "Summer Morning" - Sure you have seen this / a thousand times, // which isn't half enough. / Let the world / have its way with you, / luminous as it is / with mystery / and pain - / graced as it is / with the ordinary.

p 57, from "Mornings at Blackwater" - So come to the pond, / or the river of your imaginat...more
Melanie Faith
Mary Oliver is one of my all-time favorite poets-- I do not say this lightly, as a poet and voracious reader of poetry myself. Oliver's poetry is exquisite in its clarity and no one can make a nature metaphor more beautiful! Another excellent offering from Oliver. Her series of poems about her dog, Percy, are delightful and well-worth rereading (and sharing with friends, as I have done). Bravo! I've reread these poems at least ten times in two months I've had the volume. For anyone who thinks po...more
I am a recent fan of Mary Oliver, and I cannot get enough of her now that I know her. To know her truly is to love her.

I found myself in the campus bookstore today, and as it is the end of National Poetry Month, they are finishing up a promotion where some featured poetry works were 20% off. Having worked tirelessly for the past few days especially to get some papers in under the wire, I rewarded myself with a new book, which I could not put down.

I look forward to rereading several which I hav...more
Geoffrey Gioja
Nov 22, 2013 Geoffrey Gioja rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Mary Oliver's work
Shelves: mary-oliver
Read half of this book out loud to my daughter last night. Totally lovely. So far, not as many "hit me hard like a thump on my chest" as I usually encounter after reading twenty poems or so. The last one I read was the one she published just after the love of her life had died. . .now, many moons later I can say I have read this and each book she has published since save the last, which are mostly poems of and for dogs. I will save my thoughts on that one till I finish it, but “Junkyard Dog” is...more
Jul 26, 2009 Suzanne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nature lovers; those looking for accessible, beautiful poetry
Shelves: poetry
It's hard to find adequate words to describe a writer like Mary Oliver. Her poems and observations, here as always, are just luminous. I read this collection cover-to-cover on a summer afternoon, lying in a porch swing, savoring one after another of the humble but profound truths she so masterfully reveals through the metaphorical prism of nature. From love to loss, gratitude to grief, and Iraq to global warming, Oliver always strikes the perfect note. What a gift and a blessing to have a soul a...more
Dec 15, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver makes writing seem effortless, and her poetry packs so much in with an economy of words. Maybe it's me or maybe this isn't as strong a collection and other work I've read, but it appears that I connect with Oliver's poetry much more easily when I'm out in the wild, walking a trail, knee-deep in snow, sitting in the desert, or taking in the seashore. (I just reread this volume, mostly during a time where I was outdoors more, walking in the woods, and the connection was stronger. So I...more
I enjoyed reading this group of poems by one of the most accessible poets of today. The poems are beautiful, thoughtful, observant. Some funny, others are a slice of nature. There's death, love, animals. It's cool to imagine Mary Oliver going out to one of her myriad nature spots and just looking at some one thing for a very long time. I envy her when I read a book like this, and then am also simply pleased to be able to sit down with a book of poems and read the slice of her life and her observ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Teri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
WONDERFUL WONDERFUL WONDERFUL! I can SO relate to her poems. I'm buying this book for myself, and my friends. Thanks Tanya for the great recommendation.

I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see
and hear and I will praise it.
I did not come into this world
to be comforted.
I came, like red bird, to sing.

Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears
Trying to Survive on the melting Ice Floes
That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 56 57 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Given
  • Behind My Eyes [With CD]
  • Delights & Shadows
  • Picnic, Lightning
  • White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946-2006
  • The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle
  • Every Riven Thing: Poems
  • The Moon Is Always Female: Poems
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • House of Belonging
  • Sinners Welcome
  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • Handwriting
  • Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
  • Death of a Naturalist
  • Averno
  • I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
  • 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East
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

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

Love Sorrow

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.”
“it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.” 86 likes
More quotes…