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Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,501 ratings  ·  211 reviews
From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, her most personal book yet "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 ye ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 24th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,501 ratings  ·  211 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 poems tha
1/23/19 Currently on sale for $1.99 via Amazon: ...more
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. ...more
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.
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 whistle, a long time ago. Now
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
anything by mary oliver is a treat upon my life. some of these essays are a reread that i read previously in upstream but i’ll never tire of the wondrous clear invigorating words that are oliver’s. ❣️
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-books, 2020
it probably wasn’t the best idea to read this as my first mary oliver book but here we are! for me it ranged from 2.5 to 5 stars so i’m
settling on 3.5!! i want to read more of her nature poetry tho
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, poetry, 2019
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 gimm
Liv J Hooper
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it

I didn’t read the entire thing; I skipped the Four Poets section. I started to read it, and then it reminded me too much of my degree in a way I could not be arsed with, so skipped it.

The prose is - *wanker alert* - luminous. Stunning. The couple of poems and prose poems in this little volume were gorgeous, yes, but my gods the prose. ‘Building The House’ was a thoughtful meditation on craft and poetry, and I’m still swimming in it a bit.

Titular ‘Winter Hours’ though... I mean. The very f
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 hands with the
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 more time with her.
Phillip Marsh
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable.

Oliver’s obsession with nature is right up my street. This book feels like a good introduction to Oliver, as prose revealing more of who she is and the nature of her work sits alongside an (admittedly smaller than expected) selection of her poetry.

Favourites of her work in the book include Building the House, The Whistler, and The Boat.

I actually found her short essays on Poe, Frost, Manley Hopkins, and Whitman to be a particular highlight, also. Frost especially.

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.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Three stars for the whole book, five stars for the essay on Edgar Allan Poe
Sep 12, 2019 added it
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
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
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, poetry
“With my whole heart, I live as I live. My affinity is to the whimsical, the illustrative, the suggestive — not to the factual or the useful. I walk, and I notice. I am sensual in order to be spiritual. I look into everything without cutting into anything.”
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
I'm pretty sure this is not the best introduction to Mary Oliver's work. I liked the essays in the first part and I liked the poems, but I almost gave up when I made it to the second part about those poets. I don't understand why were they included in this collection, the only one I somewhat enjoyed was the one about Poe, but I barely managed to gather enough willpower to force myself through the rest of them. A very weird collection of texts, I was wondering how they chose the texts that made t ...more
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
Nov 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
*3.5 Stars*

This book was really wonderful. I like that it was a compilation of different genres. I am not sure how to rate it, though. The parts of the book I loved, I LOVED. Oliver has such a clear and poignant way of looking at the world. The parts I didn't like, though, I could barely stand to read. I do not appreciate all of nature the way she did, and it is not her fault I do not want to read about spiders in great detail. So, I loved parts and felt a little queasy at parts.
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems, favourites
all of the writings were so beautiful, i’m at a loss of words. admittedly, by the very end my heart was so full that i found myself crying. such powerful words mary oliver had written with so much tenderness and gentleness.... one of the best books i have read in my life!

“Be what you are, of the earth, but a dreamer too. Teilhard de Chardin was not talking about how to escape anguish, but about how to live with it.”


“Let me always be who I am, and then some.”
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.
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.
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. ...more
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."
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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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