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Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

4.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  734 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
“Joy is not made to be a crumb,” writes Mary Oliver, and certainly joy abounds in her new book of poetry and prose poems. Swan, her twentieth volume, shows us that, though we may be “made out of the dust of stars,” we are of the world she captures here so vividly: the acorn that hides within it an entire tree; the wings of the swan like the stretching light of the river; t ...more
Hardcover, 59 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,496)
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Kate
Oct 06, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
I bought Mary Oliver's recent copy of poetry titled Swan and read it over my solitary dinner. It is a slim volume full of lyrical treasures. I guess I will leave you with the titular poem. In it she whisks you away to the natural world and then hits you in the gut with a burning question at the end. God I love her.

The Swan


Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk
...more
Cheryl
Mar 14, 2012 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
I wasn't thrilled with Thirst, so hesitated before this one, fearing I would be disappointed and not being able to handle that at this particular moment in my life. Ahh, the foolishness I come up with sometimes.

She is a poet of my heart. She knows! I know or at least am learning. Sometimes I feel a little silly, and strange that I identify so much with a poet in her 70's, but it is a strangely silly world at times, so it actually fits perfectly. There are questions you must ask at least once in
...more
Christina
Jan 11, 2011 Christina rated it it was amazing
Oddly enough, this was my first acquaintance with the celebrated Mary Oliver. Although I'm not generally a fan of nature poetry, this collection had a homespun wisdom and humor that won me instantly and kept me smiling, reading and rereading each spare and often quirky poem. I do count myself her fan now. Also, what a pleasure to hold such a truly beautiful book for a change: well-designed, handsomely printed on quality, acid-free paper and hardbound. Too rare a treat now that publishers have tu ...more
Mark Robison
Apr 02, 2016 Mark Robison rated it it was amazing
If I could only read one writer for the rest of my life, it would be Mary Oliver. I never tire of her. A sample poem picked at random from “Swan,” this one called “The Sweetness of Dogs”: What do you say, Percy? I am thinking/ of sitting out on the sand to watch/ the full moon rise. Full tonight./ So we go // and the moon rises, so beautiful it/ makes me shudder, makes me think about/ time and space, makes me take/ measure of myself: one iota/ pondering heaven. Thus we sit,// I thinking how grat ...more
Tony
Sep 07, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
I read a library copy. Stuck to the outside was a tiny sticker that read +2.25. Someone ahead of me seems to have bought glasses to read this book.
Martha
Jan 16, 2011 Martha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver -- Another dear, dear friend gave me this book! What riches!! I can't say I've finished it, because you never finish with a book of poetry, but I have given all the poems a once-over, and some more than a once. It's a lovely book. I love the way Mary Oliver brought nature into the hearts and minds of so many preachers only to discover sacramental Christianity herself late in life. Here's a poem, "How Many Days" that describes the tension between the t ...more
Violet
Feb 27, 2016 Violet rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book because I stumbled upon "I worried" online. I'm a long time fan or Mary Oliver but that is my new favorite poem. The book did not disappoint.
Naomi
Oct 14, 2010 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of the leading contemporary spiritual poets, Oliver's way with words is stunning and captivating. Phrases stick in my heart and become one with my bones. This book includes many texts I expect to hear in future worship services in many traditions and also quoted in book clubs and in epigrams. There is less of the nature poet in this text, more meditations on living daily with the dead and dying, and much, much, much more on joy as the song of the world. Buy it: you'll take it off your shelf ...more
Megan
Jul 09, 2015 Megan rated it liked it
Originally, I was not really into this book. Some poems felt forced and empty. The constant discussion over the creation and beauty of nature, also, was getting to me. However, after twenty or thirty pages, I did start to smile. Some poems are really great, others are lackluster.

This is my first Mary Oliver book. I can tell that Mary Oliver is a good poet through parts of this book, but, for me, I felt like something was just sort of missing in the end from her. I don't know if in her other boo
...more
AnandaTashie
Jun 03, 2014 AnandaTashie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2014
"...The leaf has a song in it, / Stone is the face of patience. / Inside the river there is an unfinishable story / and you are somewhere in it / and it will never end until all ends. // Take your busy heart to the art museum and the / chamber of commerce / but take it also to the forest. / The song you heard singing in the leaf when you / were a child / is still singing..." (p 1 "What Can I Say?")

"... I don't really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds / or hugging the old black tree. I
...more
Brett Amy
May 02, 2011 Brett Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
A real disappointment, so far. Mary Oliver is by far my favorite poet -- I return to her words again and again -- but this collection is just sloppy. There are a few gems (there always are), but overall this volume reads like it was hastily thrown together at the behest of her publisher (she mentions as much in one of her poems, and not without bitterness), not for love of the craft.
Lisa Roney
May 19, 2012 Lisa Roney rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Some of these poems are very beautiful, while others seem to me banal and formulaic. I felt almost as though I were reading an idea notebook rather than a fully formed and perfected book of poetry. There are some wonderfully worthwhile ones, and so I'll just forget the forgettable ones.
Heather Mize
May 19, 2012 Heather Mize rated it it was amazing
After Jeanette's post about Mary Oliver the other day I've had her on the brain. Decided to re-read this one. Mary Oliver always makes you realize and remember the important things. My favorite collection is still Red Bird. But, this one is great too. I just love her.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Oct 07, 2015 Edmund Davis-Quinn rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, poetry
Another beautiful Mary Oliver book.

Some real standout especially the first poem "What Can I Say."

What Can I Say
by Mary Oliver

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
w
...more
Laura
Apr 13, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Much happier than I was with Thirst... here is one of my favorites:

How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by uncon
...more
Margaret
Dec 06, 2013 Margaret rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Half of the poems are marked for me to copy and come back to. Oliver is a life-affirming poet, someone who never fails to make me take a moment and appreciate what is around me.
Annmarie Sheahan
Mar 02, 2015 Annmarie Sheahan rated it really liked it
I think people should trade a therapist for the poems of Mary Oliver. There is nothing that helps me get over the chaos of a busy, disillusioning day like sitting and reading Oliver's poems for a good hour or so. They are simple, yet powerful. Uplifting, yet thought-provoking. They remind me to stay grounded, and to stay in touch with what truly matters. I picked up "Swan" on a whim at the public library on our snow day last Friday, and I'm very glad I saved it for tonight. Highly recommended.

"
...more
Margaretflynn
Nov 15, 2010 Margaretflynn rated it it was amazing
What can I say that I have not said. To read Mary Oliver is to glimpse the eternal by way of her pen.
Samantha
Dec 29, 2015 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sing, if you can sing, and if not still be /
musical inside yourself.
Stephanie
Truthfully I would give this collection a 3.5.

There was certainly a lot of beauty in these poems, but many of them did not touch me in the way that I hope for in poetry.

(Courtesy of Mariam)

--

The moments of beauty I loved:

pg 13

He squirms and squeals; he has done something
that he needed
and now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears, I turn him oer
and touch him everywhere. He is
wild with the okayness of it.

pg 16

how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed,

pg 18

Then I wen
...more
Laura
Dec 27, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
After a day listening to long narrative poems, I stopped at a bookstore and picked out Swan by Mary Oliver thinking to myself "you can never own too much Mary Oliver". These poems are light on the tongue, like a fresh breeze. A perfect antidote to the heaviness of the day. Poems like "Trees" p. 36 and "Lark Ascending" p. 40 have the ability to uplift even while contemplating aging. And of course I love that Oliver is a lover of dogs and foxes...her poems "The Sweetness of Dogs (Fifteen" p. 23 an ...more
Armand
Hopeful, accessible and often simple poetry. This stuff is neither complex, nor experimental nor dense, and that's exactly why I enjoyed it. It's mostly the story of the poet (Mary Oliver) herself, celebrating small intersections with nature. As a non-poetry person, I found myself coming back to the book many times.

As a final note, I found myself wanting to read it in bits. I don't recommend reading poetry books straight through. I recommend leaving them out on your desk and just reading a poem
...more
A~lotus
Apr 26, 2012 A~lotus rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Poetry lovers
Recommended to A~lotus by: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul
Feb 03, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Swan isn't a long book, but it holds up the Oliver tradition of attention to and awareness of the world around her. Her spare writing and insight leaves little treasures for each reader to resonate with differently.

From "The Poet Dreams of the Classroom"...
Then I dreamed
I stood up once more and said:
Teacher,
My heart is falling asleep
and it wants to wake up.
It needs to go outside. (p.21)


...or from "I Worried"...
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And I gave it up. And took my old body
...more
Kate
Nov 09, 2015 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I adore Mary Oliver's poetry. The amazing aspect of this collection is that I loved 98% of the poems. That is ridiculous for me. I want to write a construct review but I honestly do not think I can right now. This collection is about nature and its beauty and the wonders it brings; and this is Oliver's reaction to it all I guess, and it is just sublime.
Gina Thompson
Aug 30, 2015 Gina Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant poetry and prose. Oliver captures so much sentiment of the soul, yet her words are so simple and readable. She is unlike any other poet I've ever read. There's nothing flowery or showy about her language. It's raw and honest and beautiful. She inspires me to write better poetry.
Maria Freeman
Jul 22, 2015 Maria Freeman rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I dreamed
I stood up in class
and I said aloud:

Teacher,
why is algebra important?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up
and I said:

Teacher, I'm weary of the turkeys
that we have to draw every fall.
May I draw a fox instead?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up once more and said:

Teacher,
My heart is falling asleep
and it wants to wake up
It needs to be outside.

Sit down, he said
----
Was I lost? No question.
Did I know where I was? Not at all.
Had I ever been happier in my life? Never.
----
Where are
...more
Jamie
Aug 20, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it
There is a reason, especially in Mary Oliver's case, why "The Poet is Told to Fill Up More Pages": her gift for saying scary and true and beautifully profound things to your face through a gently insistent poem is astonishingly consistent.

Obviously half the battle for the reader is to be brave enough to read another poem, another book, when you know that 9 out of 10 of them will provide that jolt to the spirit that sometimes exhilarates, sometimes makes us feel all those corners of ourselves th
...more
Maughn Gregory
Sep 10, 2014 Maughn Gregory rated it really liked it
"Teacher,
my heart is falling asleep
and it wants to wake up.
It needs to be outside.

Sit down, he said."


"The Poet Dreams of the Classroom," pp. 21-22.
Judy Fisher
Oct 05, 2014 Judy Fisher rated it really liked it
I really like Mary's style of poetry. A couple favorites from the book are "How I go Into the Woods" and "Don't Hesitate".
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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
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How I go to the woods

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”
408 likes
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don't Hesitate)” 191 likes
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