Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays” as Want to Read:
Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  718 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Within these pages Mary Oliver collects twenty-six of her poems about the birds that have been such an important part of her life-hawks, hummingbirds, and herons; kingfishers, catbirds, and crows; swans, swallows and, of course, the snowy owl, among a dozen others-including ten poems that have never before been collected. She adds two beautifully crafted essays, "Owls," se ...more
ebook, 88 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Beacon Press (first published 2003)
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 Owls and Other Fantasies, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Owls and Other Fantasies

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
These poems are like random treasures that a faraway friend has collected over the years, assembled into a care package, and flown to you by old-fashioned postal mail. You dip into the box, and one by one unwrap them, anticipating delight. Some are whimsical, some intense, some meditative. All are infused with love. All are about birds in the wild --owls and great blue herons and loons, a flicker, a kingfisher and many others. Interspersed with the poems are exquisite, finely detailed drawings o ...more
Peycho Kanev
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

He was, of course, a piece of the sky. His eyes said so. This is not fact, this is the other part of knowing something, when there is no proof, but neither is there any way toward disbelief. Imagine lifting the lid from a jar and finding it filled not with darkness but with light. Bird was like that. Startling, elegant, alive.
But the day we knew must come did at last, and then the non-responsiveness of his eyes was terrible. It was late February when I came downstairs, as usual, before dawn. The
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poems and two essays about birds. This poet really knows how to turn a phrase.
Never mind that he is only a memo from the offices of fear.
I know this bird. If it could,it would eat the whole world.
Jee Koh
Mar 27, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Somebody had the bright idea of collecting Mary Oliver's bird poems, and voila! Owls and Other Fantasies was born. 16 out of 25 poems (i.e. about a third of the book) came from earlier books, as did 1 of the 2 essays. The book is obviously targeted at birders and Mary Oliver's fans; its commercial considerations overshadow whatever aesthetic merit it has.

The verse is best described as pandering. Its questions are obvious, its spirituality is tinselly, its consolations cheap. The first poem of th
Maughn Gregory
"Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective."

She does, and she teaches us how to do both.

Of the hawk, she writes:

"this is not something
of the red fire, this is
heaven's fistful

of death and destruction

And of the crow:

"... who has seen anything cleaner,
more gleaming, more certain of its philosophy
than the eye he turns back?"

To me she writes:

"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese
David Johnson
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I think you all already know how much I love Mary Oliver. These poems, and especially the essays, are wonderful.
Mark Robison
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another compilation of previously published poems and essays, with a handful of new ones, in this case all about birds. Oliver is simply amazing. She makes subjects you may not care about feel meaningful and inspiring and filled with, for lack of a better word from my atheist brain, grace. While all of the essays are short and powerful, I especially liked the one about caring for a crippled gull she found on the beach for three months one winter. She called him Bird: “He was, of course, a piece ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, by Mary Oliver, is a beautiful bird inspired collection. Oliver, a contemporary American poet, is well known for her intimate, rich descriptions of the natural world. This collection includes 26 free verse and prose poems, as well as two essays. It is a celebration of all winged, singing creatures in nature, of both their simplicity and complexity, their flight and songs. Oliver takes the time to carefully observe and understand them through her words. ...more
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
. . . so long as you don't mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?

--The Kingfisher

Reading Mary Oliver's work is a sacrament and a benediction. Although the subject is birds, Owls and Other Fantasies is a sacred text that discloses the meaning of life, framing its joy and its beauty without overlooking or denying any part of it, including death. A plain-spoken poet who weaves her spells with everyday images, Oliver is accessible
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter
a singular voice to be cherished
Katharine Holden
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the essay "Bird" so much I want to hand it around to people I know.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver has a way of enchanting you with her well written poems. It takes you along with her to explore the beauty of the planet we usually take for granted. Her words inspires imagination, compassion, and they open your eyes to see what she sees. Beauty is every where you just have to look closely to let your imagination run wild!
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
the poems were three stars at best -- nowhere near her usual level of poignancy, i think -- but the essays, as usual, were gorgeous.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Just read it. In small pieces. Some of the best writing about nature that I've ever seen.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Accessible poetry fluffed and feathered with gorgeous plumage.
Derek Emerson
Mary Oliver’s gift of making you look anew at nature is well documented. Still, I approached Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, with some trepidation. Was this compilation of poems about birds just a slick packaging/re-marketing of her previous work? It could be, but of the 26 poems appearing here, 10 have never been collected. In addition to the poems are two outstanding essays, including one written for this collection.

I’m not a birder — I can pick out the main ones, but my wife and t
Emily Crow
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. --Mary Oliver

Although slender, Owls and Other Fantasies is a solid collection of poems and essays about birds. There is a wistful tone permeating these selections, although both birds and poet are grounded in their "place in the family of things," as the first poem, "Wild Geese," states.

But where is that place? In poems like "Catbird" and "Crow," the bird's world and that of the poet are too different for any real connection, beyond the poet
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I owned every book Mary Oliver has ever written, but when I spotted this at the library I found out I had missed one. It’s a beautiful collection of poems about birds like the wild geese “. . .high in the clean blue air” that call to us “. . .over and over announcing. . .” our place in the family of things. Like all her poems these remind us of what can happen when we pay close attention to nature, in this case the beautifully feathered things of the world like goldfinches, hawks, hero ...more
May 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver is certainly a name to know when it comes to modern poetry. Her work is new, but she writes as an old soul. Owls and Other Fantasies is a prime example.

Reading Oliver's work reminded me of reading Emerson or Whitman. She has that deep appreciation of nature. Oliver looks at the beauty around her a bit deeper than most people do. For example she writes in her poem "Spring," "...My, in his/black-feckled vest, bay body with/red trim and sudden chrome/underwings, his is/dapper..." Her d
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I wanted one of the collections that included "Wild Geese," and it turns out that all the poems in it are about birds. They're all lovely, and although "Wild Geese" is still my favorite, there are a couple others that have stuck in my mind. "Bird," a prose piece about rescuing an injured seagull, is both heartbreaking and beautiful. "The Kingfisher" has such striking imagery, but I was also intrigued by what it seems to say about imperfection as a cost of being human. I ...more
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

browse-noun-tender shoots or twigs of shrubs and trees as food for cattle, deer, etc.

stippled-adjective-having a pattern of dots

aortal-adjective-[C16: from New Latin, from Greek aortē, literally: something lifted, from aeirein to raise] something hung, carried; akin to aeírein to lift, carry (

Excerpt from "Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond"

"and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never
Cynthia Egbert
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What more can I say about Mary Oliver than I have already stated many times. Here are some of her words that speak to my heart.

"And thus the world is full of leaves and feathers, and comfort, and instruction." (from The Dipper)

"Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away." (From Such Singing in the Wild Branches)

"Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:
I miss my husband's company-
he is so often
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, nature
This is a collection of poems and essays by Mary Oliver centered on birds. Owls, gulls, the crow and the catbird, the hawk, herons, thrushes, flickers, and starlings and more make their feathery appearances here.

I love how Oliver takes small, simple observations of her surroundings and transforms them to something profound. The hawk becomes the knife, the marsh grasses are the wings of the herons who died there, and the geese teach us about having a place in "the family of life."

The essay "Bir
"White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field"
Coming down out of the freezing sky with its depths of light, like an angel, or a buddha with wings, it was beautiful and accurate, striking the snow and whatever was there with a force that left the imprint of the tips of wings--five feet apart--and the grabbing thrust of its feet, and the indentation of what had been running through the white valleys of the snow--and then it rose, gracefully, and flew back to the frozen marshes, to lurk there, like a
Pablo Padilla
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was looking for pictures of owls that I found one of Marry Oliver's poems. I was struck by the imagery she portrays and by the mouth-dropping metaphors and almost seamless way of making you flow with the read.

She has particularly two details that I appreciate very much from her writing.

1.) She plays vividly with light and darkness, creating an assorted array of contrasts that lets you intake the imagery as if you were there, watching what she did when she was struck by the arrow of poetic thi
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another cruise ship library find. I seem to always read Mary Oliver poems outdoors, which is the best place to soak in her words about birds and the water and the natural world. So there I was, on the deck of the Emerald Princess, under the Caribbean sun, reading poems that once again reassure me that all we need is right here in this living, breathing, beautiful world. She has a line that asks something like, If you don't mind a little death here and there, how could you have one day in your li ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, creation
As usual, Mary Oliver helps us see the world around us(and ourselves) with fresh eyes and heart. In this case, it felt like reworked material - thus my 2.5 stars. But she always cuts through at least several times, like "Backyard," "Crow," and "Some Herons."
From "Yes! No!" (p.37). Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

From "Backyard (p.65). Blackberries, ferns, leaves, litter totally without direction management supervision. The bir
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readers may recognize many of Oliver's poems from previous publications. Yet they are laid out here interspersed with vivid memoir and essays that verge on poetry themselves to reflect the sweep of seasons. A book to read for respite as well as inspiration, it offers a literary journey not only through the flora and fauna of the Provincelands where Oliver lives, but also through her powerful and spiritual responses.
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like birds and words
This book is kicking around my room on the tops of various stacks of books: I love to just pick it up when I'm in the mood for something beautiful and fairly easy to digest. I like the way it's organized by title as though it were a reference book, but when you read the section about Owl it's not the information you expected, it's the information you wanted. I am left with images of blood, feathers, talons.
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm not naturally into poetry, but I took my time with this book and read one poem or essay out loud to myself each night and found I enjoyed the pictures rolling off my tongue. A few of them were so lyrical I copied them into my journal and these were my favorites: Such Singing in the Wild Branches; While I am Writing a Poem to Celebrate Summer, the Meadowlark Begins to Sing; Catbird; White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field (the most moving one in the book, I think).
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
  • Given
  • The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan
  • Averno
  • You Drive Me Crazy: Love Poems for Real Life
  • Astonishments: Selected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet
  • Strong is Your Hold
  • Repair
  • Talking to My Body
  • Second Space: New Poems
  • This Clumsy Living
  • The Insistence of Beauty
  • Little Girls in Church
  • Behind My Eyes [With CD]
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

“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 observations of the na
More about Mary Oliver...

Share This Book

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
“maybe death
isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us--”
More quotes…