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House of Light

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  2,328 ratings  ·  238 reviews
Winner of a 1991 Christopher Award

Winner of the 1991 Boston Globe Lawrence L. Winship Book Award

This collection of poems by Mary Oliver once again invites the reader to step across the threshold of ordinary life into a world of natural and spiritual luminosity.
Paperback, 80 pages
Published April 8th 1992 by Beacon Press (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  2,328 ratings  ·  238 reviews

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Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Despite owning Oliver’s two volume New and Selected Poems, I couldn’t resist snatching up this tiny collection when I stumbled upon it at a library book sale in the fifty cents bin. Although it was her American Primitive that achieved her Pulitzer recognition, House of Light remains my favorite collection of Oliver’s picturesque poetry. After spending a few days in poetic rapture through each word and staggered stanzas, I r
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My favourite poet. I find it most difficult, almost impossible in fact, to write a review of an entire book of poems. All I can do is to is to quote which I like among them. Here, it is this one entitled “Some Questions You Might Ask”—

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, th
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I am not a very ironic person. I've learned that over the past couple of years: of course I like some irony and some sarcasm now and again, and it will nearly always make me laugh, but what I really love is earnestness. Maybe I should be reading more poetry.

Mary Oliver's collection of poetry is about nature and light and loveliness, and there is a pervasive sense of open-heartedness and earnestness throughout that I found to be really moving. The majority of poems in this collection are just he
Jeanette (Again)
"Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery."

Having enjoyed a great many of Mary Oliver's poetry collections, I believe she spent most of her life in that dazzled state she describes, awed by the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of undisturbed nature going about its business of existing. Lucky for us, she chronicl
H.A. Leuschel
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was hypnotized by this book. Poems to read again and again! Highly recommended!
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?", "and, sometimes from a lifetime ago and another country such a willing and lilting companion - a song made so obviously for me. At what unknowable cost. And by a stranger." and "this is a poem about loving the world and everything in it: the self, the perpetual muscle, the passage in and out, the bristling swing of the sea." stopped me in my tracks, grabbed me by the neck and made me reflect on life in ways I have never ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites, 2019
Five A.M. in the Pinewoods

I'd seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that travels with me wherever I go. I am always reading a poem or two. It is a forever read - not one I can mark as read.

Mary Oliver speaks to my soul through the profundities of nature.

Thank you, Mary.
Kaeli Wood
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
beautiful and calming as ever, these poems make the best accompaniment to misty mornings and herbal teas. reading a Mary Oliver poem feels like holding something very small and precious in your mind like cupped hands.
Nadine Jones
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is the third book of Mary Oliver's poems that I've read this year, and they started to feel a little "samey."  Some poems in this volume felt almost smug.  But the magic is definitely still there.

Now I see it—
it nudges with its bulldog head
the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble;
and now it noses along in the wake of the little brown teal

who is leading her soft children
from one side of the pond to the other; she keeps
close to the edge
and they follow closely, the good chi
Dec 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: seekers and yearners

I have been thinking
about living
like the lilies
that blow in the fields.

They rise and fall in the wedge of the wind,
and have no shelter
from the tongues of the cattle,

and have no closets or cupboards,
amd have no legs.
Still I would like to be
as wonderful

as that old idea.
But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green face

of the hummingbird
to touch me.........

My love for MO begins with the "wedge of the wind" "no shelter from the tongues of cattle" and strengthens with "as wo
Irmak ☾
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

"...and how could anyone believe
that anything in this world
is only what it appears to be-

that anything is ever final-
that anything, in spite of its absence,
ever dies
a perfect death?"

This was my first Mary Oliver collection and I must say, this made me want to live in a forest, now more than ever.
Bill Kerwin
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing

With House of Light, Mary Oliver further explores her already extraordinary talent. As in her previous collection Dream Work, Oliver continues to write increasingly diffuse and personal lyrics, moving beyond the Pulitzer Prize winner American Primitive, which was a collection of perfect lyric episodes, each precisely balanced between the poet’s sharp eye and her loving heart.

Here, though. the two elements—the heart and the eye, each intensely present as before—have begun to merge. The heart is
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This volume of nature poems confirmed Mary Oliver as one of my favorite contemporary poets.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
House of Light. I find the title to be beyond appropriate for this particular collection of poems. This book does house light, and it slips through the cracks that make it a home, hand in hand with hope.
“I want to believe that imperfections are nothing –
that the light is everything – that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”

Mary Oliver reminds us that pain is not the only thing to cause dents in the sculpture our soul habits. Love, as well as joy, opens wou
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver will never disappoint
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this might be my favorite collection of mary oliver yet. mostly because how it made me feel, how each poem wrapped itself around my heart and lingered there. every sentence is so tenderly composed and each word picked out so attentively and earnestly. i cried because of how comforted i felt, because of how seen and heard i felt. because there's another way to see the world, because mary oliver allows me to explore it so intimately through her eyes. the tears were equal parts gratefulness for get ...more
Sep 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I liked some of the poems and I also disliked some. I'm not a fan of poems that are mainly about nature and birds and all that stuff. But I have got to say some of her poems made me like them a little. Idk the book wasn't that bad I guess. ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
oliver obviously has very similar interests to hopkins and anything that reminds me of hopkins makes me think of joanna newsom too, so i’ve spent some time today crying rereading joanna newsom lyrics. (a good time.) plus one of her recurring motifs throughout this book is ‘white wings’, which for me glances at odd angles off the last page of finnegans wake. but most of all i read her in dialectic with maggie smith’s ‘good bones’. everything links so densely in this world and i am overwhelmed.

The Reading Countess
I stumbled upon Mary Oliver quite by accident; one of many reviews of her extensive works served better than any obituary ever could.

She intrigued me, this prolific, private writer, and so I set upon a quest to read as many of her books as I could.

This is my second offering from her, and, in case you’re wondering, it won’t be my last.

Mary Oliver wrote with a sanguine sense of the inevitability of It all: nature’s wonder, God’s sovereignty, and humanity’s blindness to it all crash into this bea
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel as though I am walking through the woods and by the streams with Oliver, because she paints such vivid pictures of nature.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, poetry
"but they did this / with no small amount of desperation—you might say: love." 💌 ...more
Mattea Gernentz
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Have you ever found something beautiful, and maybe just in time?" (73)

This book emanates the warmth of a conversation with an old friend over a cup of tea. I could read it over and over again and still not be able to soak in all of its beauty.
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
I found House of Light to be a lovely book of poetry dealing with the beauty, strength, and serenity found in nature.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I think I've read a book by Mary Oliver during the first days of January for three years in a row now so I guess I started my own tradition and I love it. I miss living in a world where Mary was alive too, but I'm glad I have her poetry in order to keep having a conversation with her whenever I need it. ...more
Manish Ranjan
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Manish by: Rahul Singh
I have not read a lot of poetry. The few I did, I did because it was a part of my English Lit syllabus back in school. To name the few that I remember: The rhyme of the ancient mariner by S.T. Coleridge, The Mirror by Sylvia Plath, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, The Arrow and The Song by H.W. Longfellow.

Picked an anthology for the first time as it was recommended by a friend. And I am glad that I did. A must-read for all poetry lovers!
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
March 10-14, 2016
March 29-April 15, 2018

Mary Oliver has such a beautiful way with words. I'm just sad that sometimes she seems so close and right about life, and spirituality, but then next page she's talking about Buddha with just as much reverence. Still, the wonder with which she views the world and the words she can convey it in - lovely. Although she praises the world, her love of nature makes me love the created world, but praise God for it.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
RIP Mary Oliver. Thank you for all your amazing poetry. I love this collection and so many others. I picked this one up two weeks ago and can never really say I’m “done” reading it or any of them. You always go back.
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay
Yelda Basar Moers
To start the new year, here is a brilliant line from Mary Oliver's nature-loving, mystifying collection that will surely inspire and mobilize even the most skeptical reader of poetry. In an otherwise sleepy compilation, I found this line electrifying and wanted to share it. Her unstinting voice comes through like a bird imparting a prophetic message:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

From "The Summer Day."
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Short & Sweet Treats: House of Light 6 38 Sep 14, 2015 05:35AM  

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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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“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.”
“how could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?” 17 likes
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