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Upstream: Selected Essays

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,216 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
Comprising a selection of essays, Upstream finds beloved poet Mary Oliver reflecting on her astonishment and admiration for the natural world and the craft of writing.

As she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, finding solace and safety within the woods, and the joyful and rhythmic beating of wings, Oliver intimately shares with her readers her quiet discoveries,
Hardcover, 178 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Penguin Press
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Diane S ☔
Sep 30, 2016 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
4.5 I have read her poetry for years, she in one of my favorites but until this book I never knew she was an essayist. The beautiful writing and thoughts that are expressed in her poetry are also expressed in her writing. Thoughts on creativity, need for solitude, the wonder of the natural world, and those writers that she has loved since her youth.

Divided into three sections, the last two tying back to the first. Emerson, Poe, Whitman, those writers she finds indispensable to her own thoughts,
Cathrine ☯
Nov 14, 2016 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
If you were to take a walk upstream what would you notice?
Exploring the twin pleasures of writing literature with essays on Whitman, Wordsworth, Poe, and Emerson and then the observations of the natural world—seeing it, hearing it, and responding to it, are the inspiration in this collection by poet Mary Oliver.

She so beautifully describes the watery world of fish swimming in blue pastures, sunflowers that are more wonderful than any words about them, and wild roses as an immutable force whose
Dannii Elle
Actual rating 4.5 stars.

I received this book in exchange from an honest review from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Mary Oliver, and the publisher, Penguin Press, for this opportunity.

This is a selection of essays, written in a beautiful and abstract style, concerning a variety of topics; from the history of Emmerson, the laying of turtle eggs in the sand, Poe’s concern over the uncertainty of the universe and the adventures of a common house spider.

I enjoyed some more than others, purely be
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mary Oliver can do no wrong in her poetry. She is one of my favorite voices, reflecting on nature, reflecting on relationships. She is happy to live a life that isn't well-traveled, but rather one that notices, that breathes.

This book of essays reflects that philosophy. Some are on home, some are on other writers, some are on scrambled turtle eggs. I was cooing over the beautiful writing on the plane, much to my seatmates' chagrin. This would be a good addition to an essay collection OR for fans
Dec 22, 2016 Jamie rated it really liked it
Incredibly beautiful and just awe-inspiring how she was able to express her passion for literature and nature within such small essays.
Certain essays were written so vividly, that I felt right there with her, seeing what she had seen when she was describing the woods. Absolutely loved this book.
4.5 Stars
Oct 23, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
"I quickly found for myself two such blessings -- the natural world, and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanished through a difficult place."

In in this exquisite collection of essays, national treasure Mary Oliver uses her poetic talent and gifts of observation to reflect on topics ranging from the beauty of the natural world, to the connectedness of all beings, to the need for solitude, and the genius of some of America's literary masters. As with the poet
Nov 29, 2016 Dana rated it really liked it
Mary Oliver's essays, like her poems, are a soothing balm for the soul.
In her essay collection, Upstream, Mary Oliver sets us on a trail through forest and by shore as she expertly layers in experience and thought from essay to essay. A collection of three parts, the latter two being expansions on the first, Upstream is Oliver's beautifully writ reflection on where she comes from, her kinship with the natural world and its wild ones, and the authors that have warmed her blood and quickened her own ink.

Oliver's essays on Whitman, Emerson, and Poe are insightful pie
Caroline Gerardo
ARC copy signed made me cry when I open the cover. Read while sitting outside with Cleveland National Park at my home. Tears, nods, the taste of gooseberries found hiking all in this book. We get better with wisdom of time. A book for writers, naturalists and those with a beating soul
Nov 05, 2016 Shelly rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book. It's a collection of essays that by the end feel a little memoir-ish, in a good way. There are essays mostly on nature and small bits of Mary Oliver's life. Literature essays are also here with a special focus on Emerson, Poe, and Whitman. The entire collection is good, but I especially enjoyed the ones focused most on nature, though the Poe one was rather interesting.

(I received an ARC of Upstream from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Elizabeth Brookbank
Jan 04, 2017 Elizabeth Brookbank rated it it was amazing
In case you haven't noticed...I loved this book! Mary Oliver is one of my all-time favorites and these essays did not disappoint. I'll forgive you if you skip the ones in the middle about Whitman and Emerson, but other than that: perfection. I filled pages and pages with quotes I wanted to remember, to hold close to my heart for comfort and wisdom and hope during the coming years. I already shared some, but here are two more favorites:
"Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no nee
Oct 28, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
Reading anything Mary Oliver writes is always a soothing balm to the soul for me. I suppose I feel such a kinship with her writing because I love spending time tramping about in the woods and fields near my home taking in the nature around me, and she writes about the natural world so beautifully. No matter what she writes about, whether it be nature, or about one of the writers from the past that she loves so well and that have made such an impression on her, or the beloved town where she lived ...more
L.P. Logan
Nov 05, 2016 L.P. Logan rated it liked it
This book is beautiful, capturing revelations and insights that the average human being would fail to make on their own . . . which events are then offset by the detailed accounts of a spider killing a cricket (gross), the author nursing on her newly-made mother pet cat (even grosser), and other oddities that entirely distract from the awesomeness that observed, removed, from the author and her general sphere.

I'm still scratching my head as to whether I even liked these poetic essays or not, wh
Jaclyn Day
Nov 07, 2016 Jaclyn Day rated it it was amazing
I lack the ability to really describe all the ways I loved, devoured, and re-devoured this book so I’ll leave it at that. Really one of the brightest spots in an otherwise challenging year for new books.
Jan 18, 2017 Nicole rated it really liked it
So lovely. I always forget how much I love Mary Oliver until I begin reading her. To write beautifully and it still remain simplistic is amazing to me. Who can describe a spider's web with its egg sacs and trapped grasshopper and still make them sound fair lovelier and enriching than I really think they are? So happy I picked this one up.
Dec 19, 2016 Tucker rated it it was amazing
If you’re still doing Christmas shopping, Mary Oliver’s new book “Upstream” is a perfect gift - a gift that keeps on giving through repeated readings. “Upstream” is ideal for those with an attention to and appreciation of the natural world, those seeking a place that is peaceful, quiet, and nourishing to the soul, and those who love Mary Oliver’s poetry and her exquisite writing. Exquisite writing as demonstrated by this passage early in the book. “I was walking the wrong way, upstream instead o ...more
Dec 08, 2016 Wendi rated it really liked it
I'm ashamed to say I'm not well versed in poetry. When I was younger I might have even said I didn't like poetry and while that has certainly changed, I'm still quite wary, quite picky about when and who I'll read. Mary Oliver, however, has entered my inner circle as one of the few poets I'll automatically read. When Penguin Press offered her new book - released today - up for review, I immediately requested it with barely a glance.

So I was slightly surprised to find that this isn't a collection
Sep 12, 2016 Bonny rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, essays, netgalley
Upstream is a selection of essays about a multiplicity of things and people; Walt Whitman, Wordsworth, Poe, and Emerson, turtles laying their eggs and what became of 13 of them, the blue pastures of the ocean, inhabitants in and around Beech Forest, owls, building the house from the treasures of the dump, and Oliver's observations of and concerns for a common spider.

As is the case in almost any collection of writing, I found some of the essays more interesting and enjoyable than others. Having p
Oct 11, 2016 Cortana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
"You must not ever stop being whimsical.
And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life."

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is a collection of expressive, inspired, poetic and flowing essays which echoes her deep bond with countryside, its flora and fauna, landscapes, grass and flowers. It is also about her connection with the earth and sky, and other illustrious poets and writers. In short, it is about nature and lit
Sep 10, 2016 Gill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
'Upstream' by Mary Oliver

5 stars/ 10 out of 10

I have read other works by Mary Oliver, so was eager to read her latest book 'Upstream' (to be published in October 2016). And how apposite to be reading this volume on Oliver's 81st birthday.

I am in awe of Mary Oliver's writing, and this book is no exception. The volume contains a selection of essays covering topics ranging from the importance of Walt Whitman to Oliver in her adolescence, as a poet and 'friend'; through ponds and pond-life; to other
Nov 20, 2016 CherylAnn rated it it was amazing
This book was a fantastic birthday gift!

Uplifting, a sympathetic and purposeful wanderer, passionate and inviting are all just a few words I could use to describe Mary Oliver as I came to know her through these writings. It is as though you are sitting in her screened sun porch on a sunny day listening to the waves crash as she effervescently introduces you to Whitman, Emerson and Wordsworth. Yet beyond these essays tying the value of the natural world to the human soul, she simply shares observ
Paula Ronkin
Dec 31, 2016 Paula Ronkin rated it it was amazing
Glorious for its amazing stories of owls and fish and trees but also for the best analysis of Whitman I've ever read. I am in awe of her.
Oct 23, 2016 David rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.
Some excerpts (below) to encourage folks to buy the book. :-)

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.
I never met any of my friends, of course, in a usual way— they were strangers, and lived only in their writings. But if they were only shadow-companions, still they were constant, and powerful, and am
Grace Sanchez
Jan 22, 2017 Grace Sanchez rated it really liked it
This is the first time I've read essays by the author. I love her descriptions of other writers who's books inspire her over and over again. If you are interested in how a writer approaches writing and how important nature is to her work you will enjoy this book.
Milton Brasher-Cunningham
Jan 12, 2017 Milton Brasher-Cunningham rated it it was amazing
I love Mary Oliver's poetry, and her prose reads much the same way: full of rich imagery, intentional word choices, and grounded truths. She is not making a point as much as describing the journey as she sees it, and as she has learned it from those who have walked (and written) before her. Like Annie Dillard, Oliver writes of a natural world that I don't know well--the owls and turtles and such--yet she is invitational in her descriptions, and I can find myself in her woods, understanding thing ...more
Russ Anderson
Jan 11, 2017 Russ Anderson rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful collection of essays that I will benefit from revisiting. They remind me to observe my surroundings, experience the world, and be content and inspired by life's miracles and mysteries. If you like Oliver's poetry, you will surely enjoy this collection.
Jan 06, 2017 Ashley rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read!Except for the essay about eating turtle eggs. Don't eat turtle eggs.
Beautifully written, this book feeds the soul.
Jan 04, 2017 Kristina rated it liked it
3 stars only because I was disappointed in the fact that most of her essays gathered here were previously published, and read by myself before. That being said, it was still a pleasure to revisit some of these essays.
Dec 27, 2016 Parvathy rated it it was amazing
Prose that only a poet can write. Exquisitely lyrical and wise beyond measure. As with her poetry, Oliver writes about nature - birds and trees, bears and turtles, fish and dogs. There is one about a seagull with the broken wing that she brings home and nurses. And another about a spider in her cellar that spins a web, lays eggs, kills a cricket. Each of these essays is an exercise in observation and attention - almost devotion. And then she writes about her literary loves - Whitman and Emerson, ...more
Pamela Ellis
Dec 31, 2016 Pamela Ellis rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
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Renee's Reading Room: Upstream by Mary Oliver 4 6 Jan 16, 2017 04:32PM  
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

“Mary Oliver. 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 observati
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“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.” 14 likes
“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” 6 likes
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