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Red Bird: Poems

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,302 ratings  ·  148 reviews
Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, Red Bird comprises sixty-one poems, the most ever in a single volume of her work. Overflowing with her keen observation of the natural world and her gratitude for its gifts, for the many people she has loved in her seventy years, as well as for her disobedient dog Percy, Red Bird is a quintessential collection of Oliver's finest lyrics ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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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.
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
Nikki Nielsen
Mar 30, 2008 Nikki Nielsen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
"it is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in this broken world." Mary Oliver
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
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
Todd Valade
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is
with mystery
and pain—
graced as it is
with the ordinary.
Cynthia Egbert
I read, after I had completed this volume of poetry, that it contains the first love cycle in Ms. Oliver's repertoire. I didn't even pick up on that, I must really not have a romantic soul. But I did love these poems just as much as I have loved everything else I have read from her. I really thought that I only marked a couple of these as favourites, but in the end, I marked eight. I will share a few of the shorter ones because I truly love the way she uses words.

melancholy leaves me b
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.
Connor Holmes
I wish I could put my finger precisely on what didn't connect with me about these poems, but maybe lack of precision is more or less it. Oliver tends to invoke transcendental ideals of nature and spirituality, but I kept asking myself, So the fuck what? The poems came off as reductive and simplistic, abstract and blunt, without any real deep exploration of the meaning behind the connections she was making. I'm sure a large part of this is that stylistically Oliver's just not my taste, and I'm be ...more
Apr 14, 2008 Sallie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Oliver's poetry is very easy to read, very accesible, and very relaxing. However at the same time she manages to install in the reader a desire to get out into the world and experience life, at its wonderful basic level. This volume centres around nature. You cannot fail to miss the awe in these poems at just how grateful and in love we should be with "our small and precious lives". There are religious undertones, but nothing too heavy or distracting. Oliver is very good at evoking sights a ...more
 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!
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

A beautiful collection. Deep and wise and gorgeous.
I have enjoyed other Oliver collections more, but this one contains some of my favorite lines ever by her:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.


These poems for the most part felt too lyrical for my taste, a little too much like diary entries with the standard Oliver staircase indent applied to them.

"Night Herons" was more narrative in nature and thus I liked it more. I also liked the dog (Percy) poems, but I had already read those in the Dog Songs
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
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,
I hit my head, which triggered anxiety attacks. This book was placid enough while I was messed up to not make me more messed up. Always a sense of great control in these little poems, and small profundities (that seem cliche). For myself, this was an interesting book in that it was what I would usually avoid. Though I found it boring, it was very well done for what it is. What is it? A woman who looks to nature, listens to it, converses with it. Too delicate for me.
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
Still one of my favorite collections by Oliver. A beautiful set of poems toward the end frame politics as human experience and ask us to consider what it means to think about war and nations, environmental issues as individuals, without the removed context of parties. But most of the book is just full of touching poems about grief, aging and love.
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
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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 about Mary Oliver...
New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 A Thousand Mornings Why I Wake Early American Primitive A Poetry Handbook

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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.” 128 likes
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