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

Blue Iris: Poems and Essays

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  543 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
A rich collection of ten poems, two essays, and two dozen of Mary Oliver's classic works on flowers, trees, and plants of all sorts, elegantly illustrated, Blue Iris is the essential companion to Owls and Other Fantasies, one of the best-selling volumes of poetry of 2003 and a Book Sense 76 selection.
Paperback, 73 pages
Published October 15th 2006 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2004)
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 Blue Iris, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Blue Iris

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, women-writers
This is my favourite poem in the collection, not because it's the most exceptional poem, but because it's the poem that wound itself most firmly round my heart, and reminded me of the final days I spent with my grandmother, when she knew and I knew that she was dying, but she chose not to speak of it, but did as she had always done—silently admired the roses:


The look on her face in a dream
Stayed with me all day
Like a promise I had failed.

Not that I had made any—
Not that I could remember—
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
I just read this book in one sitting on this delicious Friday evening as the sun sat outside the window. For me, this was an evening of pure bliss. This volume from Oliver's work compiles several of her poems and a few essays that focus on the beauty and wonder of the natural world particularly flowers, trees and plants. One of my all-time favorite poems “Peonies” is contained in this volume. You can read this poem at the Writer’s Almanac. Just click on this link:http://writersalmanac.publicradi ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I checked out every Mary Oliver book in the library. I still want more.
Florence Millo
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have never been a poetry fan. Never could get it. But I was introduced recently to Mary Oliver and it is love at first poem. Can't wait to check out another book of her poetry from the library and savor my way through it!
Courtney Clark
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Anything Mary Oliver is infinitely worth your time. I want to be Mary Oliver when I grow up.
Richelle Wilson
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
First things first, I adore Mary Oliver. Second things second, I'm kind of ambivalent about this particular volume. As I was reading, I couldn't help but feel a combination of over- and underwhelmed at the fact that poem after poem was flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers. (In fact, the last line of one of the poems is actually: Roses, roses, roses, roses.) I get it, MO, you love flowers and so do I and please don't ever stop writing about them. But the collection seemed almost... gimmicky. I feel ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Mary Oliver’s unadorned style of free verse flows with an easy accessibility, yet her work resonates with abundant wisdom and shrewd observations. With the poems and essays in Blue Iris, her primary focus is on the stunning beauty and wonder of the natural world. She expresses awestruck thrill at her ability to be in harmony with nature. Whether she is praising a bird’s lovely song or admiring the permanence of a seemingly ageless tree, her poems make you feel reassured that life can forever att ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
In addition to her vivid poems on nature's very soul, Oliver includes a few essays in some childhood experiences that first taught her to see and experience nature. She implores readers to send children forth with peppermint in their pockets, "give them woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit...Attention is the beginning of devotion." Mary Oliver remains a favorite.
Cynthia Egbert
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Once again, Mary Oliver comes through for me. This is not my favourite of her collections but I still found much to appreciate. Below are my favourite offerings from this group of poems and essays.

The Bleeding Heart
I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a glossy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a
Peycho Kanev
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Blue Iris

Now that I’m free to be myself, who am I?

Can’t fly, can’t run, and see how slowly I walk.

Well, I think, I can read books.

“What’s that you’re doing?”
the green-headed fly shouts as it buzzes past.

I close the book.

Well, I can write down words, like these, softly.

“What’s that you’re doing?” whispers the wind, pausing
in a heap just outside the window.

Give me a little time, I say back to its staring, silver face.
It doesn’t happen all of a sudden, you know.

“Doesn’t it?” says the wind, and brea
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
"But also I say this: that light
is an invitation to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive."

Oliver must be leaving more of an impression on me than I thought, since this is the third of hers I've read this year. The poems are clear and beautiful, leading me into a summer's day, or a field encased by frost; but it's her essays that really grab me, and I think I'll be on the lookout for more of her non-fiction, in the future.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Especially love "How Would You Live Then?", one of my very favorite Mary Oliver poems.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have fallen in love with the poetry of Mary Oliver. In this collection, my favorites were Black Oaks and Blue Iris. So stunningly beautiful.
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Essays made for a change in the pacing of this collection.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The way Oliver describes Nature--especially flowers in this one--wonderful
Chelsey Hillyer
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked it.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it

In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.

Sea Leaves

I walk beside the ocean, then turn and continue walking just beside the first berm, a few yards from the water which is at half tide. Eventually I find what I'm looking for, a plant green and with the flavor of raw salt, and leaves shaped like arrowheads. But before
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Oliver does not disappoint, but I found this collection a little one-note. I don't think it wise to take all of Oliver's flower poetry and put it together in one work, and was happy to discover that most of these were originally published in separate works.

That being said, there were beautiful poems in this work, of course, but what was most surprising was the delight I found in the excerpts from her prose.

Teach the children. We don't matter so much, but the children do. Show them dais
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Blue Iris is a collection of poems and essays by Mary Oliver. While I am largely a joyous reader of novels, I thoroughly enjoyed these poems. All of them share a common theme of nature and Oliver's descriptions are beautiful, evocative and (at times) transcendent.

Unlike a novel, which I dive deeply into, coming up only for necessities like air and nourishment, I read Blue Iris quietly, slowly and in small bites. Often I only read one or two poems in a sitting, so that I could let Oliver's words
Mark Robison
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another compilation book, this one about plants. Ten new poems plus 24 previously published ones and two essays. I enjoyed it a little less than the animal collection “Truro the Bear” but more than the collection “Dog Songs.” But I still loved it. Sample excerpt from “Roses, Late Summer”: “If I had another life/ I would want to spend it all on some/ unstinting happiness./ I would be a fox, or a tree/ full of waving branches./ I wouldn’t mind being a rose/ in a field full of roses./ Fear has not ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a lovely compilation. I thoroughly enjoyed the thematic focus on flowers. Perhaps my favorite poem in the collection was "Lilies" which brought to the forefront the difficulty Oliver attempts to transcend: self-awareness separates us from nature even as it allows us to appreciate it. Oliver manages to be a sympathetic presence in the natural world and translates that sympathy she feels through words crafted and fed by her "attention [which] is the beginning of devotion."
Hannah Jane
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
- poems about plants, music, the soul - my favorite poem, Sea Leaves, has a line: 'the only thing I don't know is, should the activity of this day be called labor, or pleasure?' and this is exactly how I feel about working at the library - Mary Oliver uses the phrase 'rumpy bunches' in the poem, Goldenrod, and now I use it to describe my two golden retrievers
Meaghan Odell
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
These poems and essays brought me back to life growing up in the woods of New Hampshire. Oliver is a truly brilliant nature poet and her words allow any city dweller to rise out of the smog to imagine and appreciate the natural beauty around us. But in one of her essays, she warns of humankind's rapid moves to strip away what is left.
Anne Pytlak
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Some lovely poems in this volume, I especially enjoyed the afterword "Roses, Late Summer". If you know someone who loves flowers, this would be a good present to give with a bouquet. I gave it three stars since I don't think I will be returning to these poems again like I do with some of Oliver's other works.
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Though I adore Mary Oliver, I found this volume less enjoyable. I think usually I find some sort of meaning about life or the world to extrapolate out of her poetry; this time, I felt like it was plant-centric. While that's nice, it didn't keep me focused like her other poems have done.
Dayna Smith
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The queen of nature poetry! A wonderful collection of Oliver's nature poems and essays. Much more accessible than Whitman, this book is a great way to introduce younger readers to great poetry that is descriptive and captivating.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I fall more and more in love with Mary Oliver every time I read one of her books. This one I had to email some poems to friends, because I was having too many thoughts and emotions to handle them on my own. Amazing, beautiful book.
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2k16, poetry
I checked this out on a whim today at the library, knowing that I enjoy Mary Oliver's poetry, and (unsurprisingly) I really enjoyed it. My favorite pieces might have been "The Sunflowers" and "Sea Leaves," but honestly the entire book was a treat.
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is the reason I am a poet and a reader of poetry today. I picked it up on a whim at the tender age of 15 and I have been in love with Oliver ever since. Still one of my prized possessions today!
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Mary Oliver's poems about trees and flowers are the nearest thing to a good walk outdoors.

from "Goldenrod"
"All day
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,
they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness …"
« 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 »
  • A Hundred White Daffodils
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • Behind My Eyes [With CD]
  • The Insistence of Beauty
  • White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946-2006
  • Fuel
  • Delights and Shadows
  • Bicycles
  • Braided Creek
  • The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)
  • The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
  • Selected Poems
  • I Praise My Destroyer: Poems
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • Questions About Angels
  • May I Feel Said He
  • The Moon Is Always Female: Poems
  • The Wild Iris
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...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Funny In Farsi: A Memoir Of Growing Up Iranian In America
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.24 $1.99
“And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don't want to sell my life for money, I don't even want to come in out of the rain.” 69 likes
More quotes…