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Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,056 ratings  ·  153 reviews
"What good company Mary Oliver is!" the Los Angeles Times has remarked. And never more so than in this extraordinary and engaging gathering of nine essays, accompanied by a brief selection of new prose poems and poems. (One of the essays has been chosen as among the best of the year by The Best American Essays 1998, another by The Anchor Essay Annual.) With the grace and p ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 24th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  1,056 ratings  ·  153 reviews

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Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Additional Thoughts: [1/7/2015]

This review has gotten several likes lately and therefore has been brought to my attention. It's bizarre reading it now because I can look back and truly see this was the year when I was in the throes of my Christian upbringing vs. my sexuality. I was unable to see (or admit?) it then, but yeah... I was pretty gay. Now I'm super gay and delighted to be so. But in 2011 I was going through emotional hell. I'm glad my past self who had to go it alone was able to find
The only problem I have with this book of poetry and essays penned by the singular and sublime Mary Oliver is that I have checked out a library copy. As such, I cannot pencil in the margins my thoughts, underline her exquisite revelations, draw in arrows attached to my steady progression of "aha!s", "yes!es", and "this!", or dog ear nearly (true story) every page. I want to continue to go back to this book and reread passages and poems, not merely now that I am finished, but in the future. Her i ...more
H.A. Leuschel
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each and every essay, poem and prose poem is a gem to cherish in this book!
'Then the sea, at crest, a full flood, lifts itself; it flies, it enters the yard. Like long great silver draperies, with wide pleats opening and sizzling, the waves rise and shake themselves in bright flounces over the sea wall. The water is so loaded with sand that with each vanishing of the fallen wave the yard appears newly made.' This is just one little snippet of the gorgeous assemblage of words to be found in this
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often don't understand poetry and often don't like it. Some of my feelings certainly come from being given too much bad poetry.

Despite this, some poets' language is sensual or has great mouth feel or accessible metaphors that open the world in a new way for me. They make me smile, laugh, cry, or think. Those poets make me love poetry and feel that I can get it.

Mary Oliver is one of those poets.

And yet, I didn't love Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems. There were essays and poe
1/23/19 Currently on sale for $1.99 via Amazon:
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It seems like you can't go wrong with Mary Oliver. I enjoyed this lovely, deeply introspective collection of essays and poems. I feel that she truly lives by her teachings "to observe with passion, to think with patience, to live always care-ingly." There is much to ponder and savor in this slim collection.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“for it is precisely how i feel, who have inherited not measurable wealth but, as we all do who care for it, that immeasurable fund of thoughts and ideas, from writers and thinkers long gone into the ground—and, inseparable from those wisdoms because demanded by them, the responsibility to live thoughtfully and intelligently. to enjoy, to question—never to assume, or trample. thus the great ones (my great ones, who may not be the same as your great ones) have taught me—to observe with passion, t ...more
Peycho Kanev
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Whistler

All of a sudden she began to whistle. By all of a sudden I mean that for more than thirty years she had not whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sound warbled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you? Is that you whistling? Yes, she said. I used to whistl
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The joy of reading Mary Oliver is how every word is chosen with purpose. Even in her essays, words feel like they took a week to choose, and only because she listened for hours, and no other word would do.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Oliver is a new friend. I only met her after she died. It is like that with some literary friends. I never make their acquaintance until I read their obituary in "The Washington Post," or " The New York Times. "
She has been added to a list of friends who make me slow down and maybe read out loud.
"Winter Hours" is a good introduction to her. She talks about building things, being in the world, other poets, her love of her animals, how she lives.
I like her. I will spend m
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This totally obscure Mary Oliver book was listed for $2 on Kindle and I said, Sure! Why not? because I've been looking for a copy of American Primitive at every single independent book store I go to and zero of them have a copy.

Be what you are, of the earth, but a dreamer too.

So I read this instead, and it was good. A collection of short essays, poems, prose poems--it all hangs together by the singularity of her vision and her voice.  She writes about building a house with her own h/>Be
T.Kay Browning
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this one under the omnipresent winter streetlights of near-downtown Uppsala, my eyes moist probably more from emotion than the cold, pushing my baby in a stroller as my Kindle read to me in a very mechanical voice that I have grown to love, probably as far from the ideal Mary Oliver reading experience as possible, and probably just as close to the ideal. It was my brightest moment in this dark country so far.
Jessica C Writes
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"For nature and art are in this way twins: they are both beautiful, and dreadful, and in love with change."

I've only recently discovered Mary Oliver but she has really been able to capture me with her words. This style of writing was definitely new for me, but I ended up really enjoying it.

Oliver makes you want to go out into the woods and never come back with her beautiful descriptions of nature. All of her observations sound so profound and make you see the world in a different way.

I can't
wow. i’m blown away. if you thought her poetry was good, her essay writing is incredible. truly incredible stuff. rec this one wholeheartedly.

there’s three points i wanna make:
1) there is one moment in which she describes a group of turtles. they lay their eggs, leave and mary observes. she had made deep eye contact with one of the turtles. wonders what the turtle sees when she looks at her. anyway, mary leaves them be but then returns in the evening to check out the eggs. what follows is that
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2019, essays
Originally published on my book blog,, where you'll find an eclectic assortment of book reviews.

Mary Oliver is widely accepted as a master of the written word. Before her death in 2019, she published regularly and with plenty of acclaim. Winter Hours was published in 2000, in what might be considered a simpler American time.

Yet, Oliver keeps her writing simple despite the clanging bells of news events. Simple is a compliment here—she doesn’t get distracted or caught up in gimmicks.
I know her so well, I think. I thought. Elbow and ankle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too. And the devotions. And for all that, do we even know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with for thirty years? (34)

Winter Hours should not have been my first immersion into Mary Oliver’s work; I should have read one of her more famous collections, but Hours was a daily deal on kindle, and here we are.
Oliver’s contributions to transcendentalism intrigued me and were much easier to absorb than/>Winter
Alishba Ali
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such a gorgeous book. Mary pens her thoughts and feelings about nature in a way that is both wise and eye-opening. This is what is called the power to move people just with words. Words she so carefully chooses. Reading her poetry is like a hand reaching out to you in the dark, beckoning you to hold it, to have a little faith. There are so many things that are worth pondering about in this book. I've highlighted them all. Even her essays on great literary figures are full of insight. She offers ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an eclectic collection and thus a little uneven, but there are some exquisite gems here. Prose poems that will take your breath away and essays that provide insight into Oliver’s writing process and her world view. The title essay probes the mysteries of life in this world with wisdom and grace and beauty.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There is a reason that Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. Such a great eye for detail, her imagery is evocative, and while these poems are ones you can sit with, wrestle with, even dissect, I never feel like I have to work at an Oliver poem to appreciate. I need only read it, hear the music of the language and pay attention to whatever shy creature she names, tells me about myself.
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am finding a deep and abiding appreciation for Mary Oliver's work and love reading her poems and insights into the world in which we live. I read this book aloud to one of my hospice patients and the words soothed her and the reading calmed her as she fought to stay alive; poor woman, fighting a losing battle.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Winter Hours is filled with exquisite essays and poems of the late Mary Oliver. I lingered over many stunning lines throughout this book, including these stanzas from "Sand Dabs, Six:"
- "As a carpenter can make a gibbet as well as an altar, a writer can describe the world as trivial or exquisite, as material or as idea, as senseless or as purposeful. Words are wood"
-"Every word is a messenger. Some have wings; some are filled with fire; some are filled with death."
Johanna Hilla
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enigmatic, insightful, secretive, cunning, light, open, raw, private.

A story about cooking turtle eggs and a poem about a dog peeing were my favorites.

I wish Mary Oliver was still around to show us how to see.
Patty Sampson-Bouchard
Another wonderful work of Mary Oliver and which was especially poignant as winter is almost over here in the Northeast. Especially liked the parts where she reflected on other poets' work who write about nature such as Frost and Whitman.
Sep 06, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
9/6/19 my brain just can't focus on these essays
Hizatul Akmah
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, favourites
i just ugh love this book so much i can't even
Victoria Simpson
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everything Mary Oliver writes is exquisite
Jennifer Mangler
Prose poetry is not my favorite, but I still find a lot to like in Mary Oliver's work. Her pieces on other poets were really interesting.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, and this one of prose and poetry is, so far, my favorite.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a Mary Oliver day.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This was not what I expected it would be. I took it out on a whim because it happened to be available and I want to read more of her... anyway, it was a mostly pleasant read and it did inspire me to want to read more Poe and reconsider the terrible research paper I wrote on Walt Whitman in high school.
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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 natur
“The poem in which the reader does not feel himself or herself a participant is a lecture, listened to from an uncomfortable chair, in a stuffy room, inside a building.” 12 likes
“All things are meltable, and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.” 6 likes
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