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Red Bird

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,288 ratings  ·  247 reviews
Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could. So begins Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, and the image of that fiery bird stays with the reader, appearing in unexpected forms and guises until, in a postscript, he explains himself: "For truly the body needs / a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, / the soul has need of ...more
Hardcover, 78 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,288 ratings  ·  247 reviews

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Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Her poems give me hope and strength. This collection didn't disappoint me but I feel some poems were written in a haste without giving much importance to what such lines would convey. But I like majority of the poems.
The soul of this collection is the message to save the Earth. And I much appreciate such messages and that through meaningful verses and lyrical lines.
brian tanabe
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this a month or two ago in preparation for a reading last night -- I didn't quite know what to expect as I am somewhat new to Mary Oliver. Anyway, it was a beautiful night and an incredible reading. She was a bit older than I imagined and a bit more frail, but that is truly beside the point.

My original interpretation of the poems in Red Bird, perhaps due entirely to the way I read them, had a slight sensuality to them. Hearing Mary read aloud some of these poems (and from other
Books Ring Mah Bell
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Yeah,I'm yelling at you , reading the Sandra Brown! Hey!! Put down the James Patterson and get your hands on this!! It will rock your poetic world.

GO! While you are out, pick up a copy for me, so I don't "forget" to give this back to my friend.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, gbbw
sometimes - Mary Oliver


Something came up
out of the dark.
It wasn’t anything I had ever seen before.
It wasn’t an animal
or a flower,
unless it was both.

Something came up out of the water,
a head the size of a cat
but muddy and without ears.
I don’t know what God is.
I don’t know what death is.

But I believe they have between them
some fervent and necessary arrangement.


melancholy leaves me breathless…


Water from the heavens! Electricity from the source!
Both of them mad to create something!

Nikki Nielsen
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone that appreciates poetry
...and this is why I have been sent,
To teach this to your heart.

What a beautiful variety of poetry. I am new to Mary Oliver and can't wait to get my hands on more of her writing. She expresses love, appreciation for nature, gratitude, and even disappointment with those who are power hungry in a very flowing prose.

These poems are intimate astonishments, wonders of tender love for the world closely observed and its interplay with spirit - especially a spirit of song, whether in sorrow or confusion in aging and death of a loved one, or in rejoicing for the beauty and providence of the day. Her poems delight me! I've been searching for good writing that is both serious and uplifting, life-embracing -- and -- among living authors -- I found Mary Oliver.

Not This, Not That seems to be Mary Oliver's own,
Truly remarkable.
Invitation perhaps is my favorite poem of the collection, but I simply love her worldview and how it translates into her poetics.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I do not currently have the tools to write a terribly insightful, objective review of a book of Mary Oliver's poetry as I wish that I did - perhaps I get closer to that with each volume I read? This I will say in an effort to get closer to that small goal: Mary Oliver's poems have a special ability to touch the soul, not only our own, but the soul of life, of every living thing and to illuminate our relationship to each other. In any form I have never encountered someone who understands and ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
While rereading the lovely poems in Red Bird, I’m reminded once again why Mary Oliver is certainly one of the greatest American poets since Robert Frost. She is an inspiring and visionary poet who quests after the essential matters of the heart and soul. She is a sage in her understanding of sorrow and joy and of investigating what it means to be human. She is the quintessential poet in search of capturing the beauty and meaning of life, or more aptly how to understand her mortality in relation ...more
Jane Glossil
Deeply moving.

The poems made me cry (and I've never really cried over poetry before), or perhaps I just really needed them. I'm so glad I picked up this collection at just the right time: the time for deepening and quieting the spirit; for opening your life and opening your hands; for melancholy leaving you breathless; for apologizing for ever speaking of yourself as lonely; and, everything else that a tender heart could ruminate.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book at first in pieces, picking poems like day Gala, the next Fuji. But then I read it front to back like a freaking fantastic feast and I am now...fully full.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, favourites
My days have been difficult and dark of late. I don't know anything else but that deep space with no light; it's as if I have lived there always. This morning, I opened this book and found prayers for my life. I am not a deeply religious person but Mary Oliver's words have touched my soul deeply—they always have, anyway—and I thought, damn, there is nothing truer than this, right now: Sometimes / melancholy leaves me breathless. (Sometimes)

When she writes in Red Bird, "I know He has many
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, poetry
"You sing, I listen.
Both are necessary
if the world is to continue going around
night-heavy then light-laden, though not
everyone knows this or at least
not yet,
or, perhaps, has forgotten it
in the torn fields,
in the terrible debris of progress."
Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, and has been for over 30 years. (A close second is Wendell Berry.)
"So many notions fill the day! I give them
gowns of words, sometimes I give them
little shoes that rhyme."
Whenever I pick up and reread a volume
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Oliver is a poet I can always count on. This collection did not disappoint.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver is the best pick me up.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"im sorry i ever spoke of myself as lonely"
Anne Earney
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, borrowed
Lovely poems about nature, love, life & death, birds & animals. I enjoyed seeing the world through these poems. If these poems were a philosophy of living, then they make it seem not only doable, but quite enjoyable, even with death looming right outside the door.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I implore you,
it’s time to come back
from the dark,
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, literary
Mary Oliver makes me feel so happy and grateful to be alive
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"it is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in this broken world." Mary Oliver
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites, poetry
Love, love, love, says Percy.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Every time I think I love Mary Oliver's poetry, I read another work of hers that only sends that admiration surging higher and deeper. RED BIRD isn't just a poetry collection about the beauty of nature. It's also about hope and gratitude, love and sadness, joy and renewal. It reminds us to take the time to observe our world, to think about our actions and the consequences they might have on place, flora, and fauna. At times it fiercely criticizes humanity for its focus on progress and its ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Like all of her books I’ve read so far, the main themes here are in the love of nature and the reflection of life. It seems to me Oliver is aware of the dark side of life, but when she comes to sit and write, she exchanges it for positivity in an act of sublimation. But I do wonder what would’ve happened if she allowed herself some more freedom.

I liked the sense of the structure of this book, from the first poem to the last, the last poem, “red bird explains himself” is absolutely beautiful and
Ankit Gupta
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm sort of new to reading poetry, so my thoughts are a bit hazy and I don't really know the right words to describe things. But I found myself coming back to several passages over the past few weeks in this collection, and generally felt uplifted by the optimism that Oliver (to me at least) seems to convey through her descriptions of nature. Anyways, I'll probably have more coherent thoughts on this someday.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Perfect perfect this collection is perfect.
Danita L
Beautiful. Do yourself a favor though and don't try this on Kindle. The format of the poetry is very skewed and disrupting in that format. Audible would be fantastic!
Megan Lane
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
How do you rate a poetry book? I love words. Oliver's words are beautiful. Not always truth. But beautiful.
Patricia McLaughlin
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.” —Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”

Favorite poems:
“Visiting the Graveyard”
“Both Worlds”
“In the Evening, in the Pinewoods”
“Of Love”
“If the philosopher is right”
“I will try”

“Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?” —Mary Oliver
AJ Nolan
I adore Mary Oliver, and I adore this book. While I may like individual poems in some of her other books better than any one poem in this book (as famous as it is, I still love "Wild Geese" with my whole heart, and I always will, this is my favorite book of hers. The entire collection reads like a book of prayers, and it is a beautifully centering, human and empathetic book. Here are just a few snippets:

From "Summer Morning"

Let the world
have its
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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
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“it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.” 299 likes
Love Sorrow

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.”
More quotes…