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Why I Wake Early

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  2,575 ratings  ·  197 reviews
The forty-seven new works in this volume include poems on crickets, toads, trout lilies, black snakes, goldenrod, bears, greeting the morning, watching the deer, and, finally, lingering in happiness. Each poem is imbued with the extraordinary perceptions of a poet who considers the everyday in our lives and the natural world around us and finds a multitude of reasons to wa ...more
Paperback, 71 pages
Published April 15th 2005 by Beacon Press (MA) (first published 2004)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
Best Poetry Books
152nd out of 1,546 books — 1,694 voters
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50th out of 133 books — 169 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kevin Fanning
Loved this. I think it’s taken my whole life to appreciate a book like this, poetry that is quiet and humble and confronts the spiritual and the unknowable without starting from a place of pain and negativity.

Favorites include:

Why I Wake Early:
Watch, now, how I start the day / in happiness, in kindness.

Freshen the Flowers, She Said:
Fifteen minutes of music / with nothing playing.

Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around / as t
Mary Oliver continues to rip my heart out, cleanse it, and return it to me better than when she took it.
Really about 1 and 1/2 stars. It pains me to give such a poor rating to one of my favorite poets, but so many of these poems read as if they've been shaken out of Oliver's notebooks without a tweak. It's fine to scribble these sorts of sentimental, my-heart-is-full observations into one's diary, and they can make good fodder for a draft, but they are not enough for a published poem. And really, she should know better.

If you want to read Oliver at her best, where she balances spirituality with p
Kate Savage
When Mary Oliver becomes unbearable to me I imagine two things:

1) That the revolution has already happened, and ALL of us are free to roam New England shorelines and write about pebbles and birds without thinking of the war and horror and exploitation happening elsewhere.

2) Even still, deep down Mary Oliver is ruminating, desperately, panicked, over cancer and parasites and gangrene, and she writes only words of beauty and happiness because that counter-balances her muddling soul.

Two leaps of th
James Murphy
I've read and enjoyed lots of Oliver's poetry. I'd never noticed her writing from a religious viewpoint before. Or else I didn't remember, it being a few years since I've read her. I don't hold it against a writer if she articulates her faith. But a fact of poetry written from a religious impulse is that a secular reader can't or may not appreciate, ultimately, what the poet wishes to express. However beautifully written, it doesn't always make for interesting poetry. Why Mary Oliver wakes early ...more
Just more beautiful poetry by the great old woman who, oh-my-goodness, just makes words sing out such lush pictures of our world. She writes poems that share with us those clear, precise images of such beauty--or the tragedy found in the natural world--and her sense of them: the joy, the sweetness, the knowing of immediate, sublime pleasure in something that is only here for just this moment. But oh, what a moment. Captured, in Mary Oliver's words. It's like she writes with a crystal pen tip, an ...more
Mary Oliver is brilliant! I incurred a late fee on this from the library so that I could keep it longer and share with my parents. We all agreed that you can use the poems as a daily meditation on gratefulness for our natural surroundings. Last night, I read some out loud to my Mom and Bill while we were hanging out. So sweet. I think I'll be giving Mary Oliver as gifts in the future!
Feb 02, 2008 Rick rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Most recent collection by a prolific poet whose work is popular and once was prize-winning—including a Pulitzer and a National Book Award. Oliver has gone a little soft and dreamy and many in the current collection read like verbal Nature posters, atmospheric and pretty but lacking in meaning or power: “Oh, good scholar, / I say to myself, / how can you help // but grow wise / with such teachings / as these— / the untrimmable light // of the world, / the ocean’s shine, / the prayers that are mad ...more
I simply love Mary Oliver's poetry. Her attention to detail, her love of nature, her willingness to look for God in the grass and the animals - these things speak to me. I love that her poetry seldom (if ever) rhymes. I love that I can find my own cadence when reading her words - placing the emphasis I need on phrases - without losing the poet's original meaning.

How can you not love a book with lines like "how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you,/ even your eyes, even your imagi
Rajesh Achanta
Oliver is an accomplished American poet but I haven't read her poetry previously.Loved almost all of the poems here - because I too wake early - reminded me of Robert Frost & Wordsworth (occasionally) in her subjects - crickets, toads, black snakes, bears, greeting the morning, watching the deer.

Why I Wake Early
Watch, now, how I start the day / in happiness, in kindness.

Freshen the Flowers, She Said
Fifteen minutes of music / with nothing playing.

But, what about virtue?

Where Does the Tem
Heather Ormsby
I loved this set of poems. I read a library copy of the book - but would love to own this one if someone is looking for birthday gift ideas for me. (-;

Mary Oliver finds the Holy in nature with a quiet watchfulness and attention. Beautiful.
Her poetry brings tears to my eyes with its clear vision of the natural world's beauty. I can't do it justice in a review.
I appreciate this book because it holds a lot of optimism and love, which are ideas often overlooked in lit. A while ago I found this girl lecturing on how "deepness" and the highest truths can only be found in the darker themes in literature, but I think that is very untrue and I think it is very unwise to believe it. If someone can find solace and strength in nature and remember why life is worth living, isn't that just as important?

So I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did, but most
Bonnie James
Mary Oliver has such a remarkable way of showing nature's stillness and beauty in her poetry. This is my favorite book of hers so far.
simply marvelous

Snow Geese

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask

of anything, or anyone,

yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.



The snow
began slowly,
a soft and easy

of flakes, then clouds of flakes
in the baskets of the wind
and the branches
of the trees --

oh, so pretty.
We walked
through the growing stillness,
as the flakes

prickled the path,
then covered it,
then deepened
as in curds and drifts,

as the wind grew stronger,
Apr 29, 2013 Nadia added it
This is going to be an author who I read straight through all of her works like I have nothing else to do with my time. Her observations are what we think when there is no one there to judge and no pressure to put into words, but what she gives us is an easy, uplifting evidence into the beauty that lay all around at every moment. She is helping me see again what my heart siphons from the everyday experience. Thank god for this woman's insistence upon 'saying it'!
Just finished my first book of her poetry, and I purposely took a long time to savor it. I too wake early and I often feel the sacredness of the morning, of the moment, of the small that she so simply and beautifully captures in her poems. I'm thankful I discovered her...someone to express the good and the real in the world...if only we all slowed down more and really listened and looked, we could know it too.
Jan 11, 2009 Bruce rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poetry lovers and people who are just starting to read poetry
Recommended to Bruce by: Cathie Sandstrom
Shelves: poetry, 2009-reading
Every time I reencounter Mary Oliver I am struck with wonder with the ways in which she views the natural world. She truly has a poets eyes, with the gift for seeing what is there in its reality, as well as understanding the little miracles that underly that reality. A truly, truly gifted poet.
Can I give this book 10 stars - or 100? I do wake early - and read this book over and over again - and send the poems to friends for special birthdays. Most all the wisdom of life, and the rewards of watching the world, are contained within 71 slim pages.
I couldn't finish this book. I must be missing something, because I didn't think these were all that great. I liked parts of some of these poems a lot, but never the whole thing. For me, it was just missing something.
I have rarely been so moved by a book. The attention to detail, the praise of being mindful and the celebration of life's small beauties in this book make it a guide to a rich life well lived
Jun 27, 2015 Rachael marked it as to-read
I am so very happy I discovered Mary Oliver this morning! I was listening to a Dear Hank and John podcast in which John opened with this amazing short poem:
"I Go Down To The Shore

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.”

You should know that I am absolutely obsessed(is that the right word?) with nature and, and t
Her language is simple and astonishing. A bit too praisy of the imaginary old man in the sky.
Aunt Edie
Having recently devoured Mary Oliver's latest collection, I was inspired to go back to some of her previous work. I'm sorry this is such a lame review but I'm not sure what else to say. She is a treasure, her words are simple and pure and true. She cuts right to the heart of the matter. She's been doing it for years and continues to make us think and feel. She feeds our wonder and imagination. And especially our appreciation of the magical world all around us. But none of that is specific to thi ...more
This is a beautiful book of poetry.
This is the first book of poetry I've actually read as a book--you know, straight through, thinking about why Oliver put which poems in which order, with a sense of building the way a novel might have. I had a bit of a hard time reading it that way, just because I can only read a few poems at a time and feel like I'm giving them their proper respect, so it felt like it was taking forever to read.

BUT! The poems are lovely, full of fantastic little observations and reverence for the world. And I
"All things are inventions of holiness./Some more rascally than others." Ugh, why is Oliver so GOOD? It isn't fair. I'll admit she has a schtick, and there really aren't any variations on it in this collection, but I happen to like her schtick, so I'm more than pleased to read another collection of dreamy, lyrical poems about the small beauties of the natural world. I would argue that she overuses one stanza form--not sure if it has a name, but I'll call it the staggered-line quatrain--and that ...more
I like Mary Oliver's poems, but something was brought into focus while I was reading this book. I am a city girl. I was raised in a city (albeit a small one) by parents who were themselves raised in cities (also small ones.) We did not hike on the weekends, we camped sparingly. I rarely, if ever, wandered through any "wild" area. None of this is bad, but it did shape me. To this day I enjoy walking about my neighborhood more than driving to some wilderness to "hike." Urban environments grow and ...more
Nov 27, 2014 Nan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver writes about the natural world with a sense of precision and wonderment. While not my favorite collection, it does include the poem "Mindful" that beautifully sums up her commitment to paying attention. ("Every day/ I see or hear/ something/ that more or less/ kills me with delight...It is what I was born for--/ to look, to listen/ to lose myself in this soft world...") Worth it for that alone.
A nice collection of poems in praise of nature and the Divine. At times it reads like little illuminations making you want to fall completely in love, head over heels with the world...prayerful, beautiful, little treasures. At other times however, some of the poems fall a little flat, missing that special, spiritual quality. But overall an enjoying read.
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  • Collected Poems
  • House of Belonging
  • Given
  • Delights and Shadows
  • Fuel
  • Picnic, Lightning
  • Alive Together
  • Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • Without: Poems
  • A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far
  • The Lives of the Heart
  • Good Poems for Hard Times
  • The Human Line
  • A New Selected Poems
  • The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
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 American Primitive A Poetry Handbook Thirst

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The Old Poets Of China

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.”

It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their -- if you don't
mind my saying so -- their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example -- I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch --
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.”
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