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Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,139 ratings  ·  152 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 original to this volume. She adds two beautifully crafted essays, "Owls," selected for th ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Beacon Press (first published 2003)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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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
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
Александра Огнаноска
What I'm leaving here is merely a glimpse of Mary Oliver's peaceful poetry. Nature is a well-known friend of hers. The birds and flowers, the pebbles and stones. Her message to go outside, to let ourselves feel, to pay attention to the natural world is both insightful and inspiring. Reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poems. 🌼
"Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond"
As for life,
I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of the
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
What can I say? It's Mary Oliver, it's all birds and ponds and joy in life. Joy in spite of the spector of death, in spite of losing loved ones, in spite of a difficult past. Because all of those things are temporary and of the mind/body. But joy in life and nature is in the Spirit, and nothing can touch the spirit unless we allow it. Mary made the choice years ago not to allow it, and that has blessed all of us who read her poetry.
I feel I have sat near her at the pond, on the shore and in the
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Caitlin Conlon
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such a beautiful collection, about Oliver's connection with the birds in her life. Mary always makes me want to notice more, until I am full of knowing.
Eunice Moral
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Ultimate fave is the poem Wild Geese!
David J
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.
Jane Glossil
Such dazzling imagery. Mary Oliver's gift is to transport you to where she had been and what she had noticed. She lends you her eyes and her experience through her poetry. She wakes you from an emotionless slumber into the light of day, or in this book, to see life and death through the birds.
Had to read one today. Happy birthday, Mary Oliver!
Sarah Ansani
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver--a follower of spirit animals, is my spirit animal. In this book, she muses on the feathered menagerie near her home [at that time]. When some equate owls with omens, she equates them with blood-lust and duty. A flying, clawed, downy vehicle of purposed living. The "other fantasies" within this slim volume include the dipping and rising starlings, and my favorite poem, about the Catbird.

"For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars.
For he will never grow pockets in his gray win
Jee Koh
Mar 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Kerri Anne
This collection found me during one of the toughest and most bittersweet weeks of this year, and like all good poetry (and nearly all of Oliver's poems), I'm so grateful for it.

So many lines that sing like so many birds I love to watch fly.

[Five stars for poems that will forever remind me of my connections to so many precious places, and that I'll forever connect with some of the most important people in my life.]
Elizabeth Barto
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver is a gentle lighthouse. Her curiosity and tender love for the world warmed me and brought me home.
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

This is the first I read of Mary Oliver. I fell in love.
I fell in love with Wild Geese, the first time I read it I cried, and every time I picked this up to continue reading, I'd read it from the beginning all over again. I read Wild Geese probably a dozen times.

“I went to China,
I went to Prague;
I died, and was born in the spring;
I found you, and loved you, again.”

I have so much love for and kinship with this little collection. I fe
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm grateful for reading this collection because it taught me that my love of nature in poetry has changed. There were a couple places where I wanted to put the book down, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn't want to pick it back up. Oliver's poems have always intrigued me, and I have loved the poems I have read from her in the past. My recent interest in owls led me to pick up this collection while I was in D.C., and while it didn't hold my interest the entire time, I still recognize the beauty ...more
Hizatul Akmah
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Ashley Ford
A few poems at night before bed...Mary Oliver is a master.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, poetry
One of my favorite poets, one of her favorite animals.
Joshua Gross
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed this book a lot, especially "Wild Geese" and "Bird." I found her beautiful descriptions of nature and birds calming while I anxiously waited in a jury room, waiting to be called.
S.L. Jones
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, as always. Sad but hopeful, never pretentious.

Three quotes:

"the sands in the glass stopped for a pure white moment while gravity sprinkled upward"

"I think this is the prettiest world—so long as you don’t mind a little dying"

"What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven."
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
the wisest
Ray Zimmerman
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment, poetry
I am happy to have spent the majority of today reading Mary Oliver’s poetry. An entire book of poetry and essays about birds. This book was made for me. I want to write one of my own.
Cynthia Nicola
I enjoyed the essays in the book more than the poetry but a relaxing natural world read.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
‘To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.’
- Mary Oliver, from ‘Yes! No!’

Another small collection of short gifts from a favorite. She has given us some of our best. Missing her already...
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't like poetry very much, but I love Mary Oliver's poetry. Her reflections about nature are so beautiful. She makes you want to go out and take a walk in the woods.
Mark Robison
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
. . . 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
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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.

“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

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