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4.35  ·  Rating details ·  4,708 ratings  ·  473 reviews
Thirst, a collection of forty-three new poems from the Pulitzer Prize-winner Mary Oliver, introduces two new directions in the poet's work. Grappling with grief at the death of the love of her life and partner of over forty years, the remarkable photographer Molly Malone Cook, she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not ...more
Hardcover, 88 pages
Published October 15th 2006 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Hossam could you please send it to me by e-mail cause I can't afford to buy it !!…morecould you please send it to me by e-mail cause I can't afford to buy it !!(less)

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Average rating 4.35  · 
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Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cecily by: Laysee
I bought this as soon as I’d dried my tears from reading one of the poems Laysee included in her review:

Image source

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

"I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves."

After reading the whole collection, The Uses of Sorrow remains my favourite, but Oliver's journey through bereavement, finding joy in the beauty of the natural world, and
Dave Schaafsma
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grief, poetry
I had not yet read this later collection, and decided to read it because its author, Mary Oliver, recently died, which led for me to a kind of grieving. This book was written more than ten years ago after her long time partner, Molly Malone Clark, died, so I thought it might provide some interesting (and useful) symmetry: How can those of us readers best mourn Oliver’s (or anyone’s) loss? Oliver was one of the best known poets of the last fifty years; she’s one of our greatest advocates for poet ...more
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
*One line review:
She just wrapped the earth in her arms and released it dressed in calm and serene.

*My favourite:
'A Note Left on the Door
There are these: the blue
skirts of the ocean walking in now, almost
to the edge of town,
and a thousand birds, in their incredible wings
which they think nothing of, crying out
that the day is long, the fish are plentiful.
And friends, being as kind as friends can be,
striving to lift the darkness.
Forgive me, Lord of honeysuckle, of trees,
of notebooks, of typewriter
Oct 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Live long enough, live deep enough, and you will find, as Mary Oliver does in these 43 poems collected in "Thirst," that all grief edges joy, all joy is edged by grief. It is only in a deep and courageous immersion into life, and perhaps also that place beyond life, that one can fully experience this wonder, a kind of yin and yang, the light beside the shadow, phenomenon that is living with thirst, quenched or unquenched.

There is nothing pretentious about Oliver's poetry. She is simplicity and
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
Reposting in honor of Mary Oliver who died on Jan 17, 2019. I will miss her beautiful poetry. RIP, Mary Oliver.

“Thirst" is a very fine collection of forty-three poems published in 2006.

Mary Oliver's poems exude an elegance that represented an outflow of her intimate communion with nature. Her lines about the trees, roses, hummingbirds, her dog, and all kinds of living creatures inspire a fresh appreciation of the natural world we tend to gloss over in our hurried lives. Often I linger over a po
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this over the "Weekend of Three Books," as I'll remember it, at a Bed & Breakfast that might just as easily be called a Bed & Books. You know: Window seat, sea views, book, walks by the winter sea. Repeat. Especially window seat, sea views, book.

I've read some good Oliver poems about nature, but this collection was in obvious reaction to her lifelong partner's death. I'm no atheist, but I thought the presence of God and Jesus dragged a lot of these poems down. Not that religious allusions
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, poetry
A Pretty Song

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn't it?
This isn't a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for awhile.

Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
Kayley Hyde
Feb 10, 2019 added it
Shelves: grief
"That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.”
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I like Mary Oliver, and I'm not going to stop liking her just because I liked Thirst less than American Primitive and House of Light. I have read a lot in Dream Work, too, and will probably read the whole thing through this summer, so I get a sense of her again.

In Thirst, I respect the grief and the reverence for nature and nature's beauty, but the God thing feels too pointed to me. And I don't really mind when poets do their God thing--Lucia Perillo, Andrew Hudgins--it's their thing, their mate
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
“When I first found you I was
filled with light, now the darkness grows
and it is filled with crooked things, bitter
and weak, each one bearing my name.”

I must start by saying that I believe the title of this collection of poems is beyond appropriate. Thirst is a tree of forty three branches seeking answers from a sky they know to be everlastingly out of reach.

Mary Oliver is painfully aware that one backward step after one step forward won’t bring you to where you were before. Even if taken with ex
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Glorious ! !
I loved so many poems of this book.


The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Percy (Six)

You’re like a little wild thing
that was never sent to school.
Sit, I say, and you jump up.
Come, I say, and you go galloping down the sand
to the neares
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, own, poetry
I finally pulled this one off the shelf. Admittedly, it's because Mary Oliver just passed away this week. A few of this poems hit me hard, while others just weren't my thing. But I understand why Oliver is so revered. She'll be missed, but thankfully, we can revisit her poetry over and over again. ...more
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this in snatches while sitting by my dying grandmother's side this past autumn. The idea of grief as a kind of thirst made complete sense to me. In one way, grief is a thirst for knowledge, for more time, for more details or information about the dead person that may never be satisfied. In each poem, Mary Oliver always sets the scene with exactly the right details, but here, I felt like that artistry was a mere coincidence, and not the central aim; a by-product. She wrote this book after ...more
Ginger Bensman
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, inspirational
This slender book of poems shimmers with grief, and gratitude, and amazement. I come back to Mary Oliver when I'm feeling frayed and frazzled, and I never cease to be touched, and calmed, and filled with wonder. ...more
Jan 18, 2021 added it
Marry Oliver’s depiction of nature was captivating, it made me feel at peace while reading. I feel as if I have new found appreciation for wilderness now. There is a lot of references to god and christianity in particular, which were the least enjoyable parts for me since I’m a believer of neither. Yet still, a delightful collection of poems!
Matthew Mousseau
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you
My work is loving the world. [...]
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

I really love this collection.

Thirst is a hopeful, contemplative, and inspiring series of poems about the dance between grief and graciousness. Mary Oliver blends her experiences with nature, loss, prayer, and God into a wonderful echo of a spiritual search, tracing her footsteps along the way in words, finding pain, grace, and beauty, and inviting the reader to experience some of that journey. There
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
The reviews of this book tell me that Mary Oliver writes in these pages as if she has had an encounter with the Divine. Oliver is one of my all time favorite poets. Her poem Peonies is near the top of my list. She is attune to nature in such a delicious way. This book of poems is not surprise but what is - is the spiritual nature, namely Christian nature of this book - her spirituality is not in a general no name sense. With her delicate sensiblities toward the world of nature coupled with her a ...more
Jim B
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Many people don't get poetry. For me, it's like fireworks going off, set off by words. Or it's knowing something all your life, and finding that thought expressed for the first time by a fellow human being.

Still, poetry can be obscure or self-important. I don't mind obscure because sometimes you have to lift the latch for the fireworks to be set off. Self-important -- even that I can relate to. I know the feeling of importance.

A friend recommended this book to me. Mary Oliver is the most access
Mark Robison
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I’d expected to love this one because it was the book published after Oliver’s partner of 50 years died and supposedly was a beautiful meditation on grief. I didn’t get that. Unlike most of Oliver’s books, there were few passages I highlighted or poems I bookmarked to reread. Her discussions of religion — more prominent than in other books — seemed awkwardly formed, as if she were trying to find solace in it but couldn't. I’d put this one lower on the list of Oliver titles to try. That said, two ...more
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oliver may be the most widely read poet in America, and I think for good reason. She seems to do what seasoned poets should do--grab the reader with the most concise words possible. Oliver does this so well, that some of her poems might even seem overly simplistic. They're not.

Oliver is a lesbian who had the same partner for about 40 years. This collection was written after her partner's death. I suppose this is why these poems seem different than her other work. She also, throughout, explicitly
Tiffany Chan
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Usually I don't read poetry books in one sitting but this was a complete pleasure to sit down and spend a good hour or two on. Oliver takes you on moments of quotidian heights, as well as quiet moments of grief - still maneuvered with a degree of hope. ...more
Aug 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I didn't enjoy this one as much as I have her other works. Noteworthy were The Place I Want to Get Back To
Heavy and Walking Home from Oak-head.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lovely poems of great sensitivity. Oliver moves between meditation and celebration with clear, graceful, and resonant language, and the small scale of her verses belie their wisdom and depth.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mary Oliver is definitely my favorite contemporary poet. Her observations on nature are so spot on. I focused on those poems instead of her more religious ones in this collection.
Pam Cipkowski
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I checked Mary Oliver’s Devotions, the latest selection of her works, out from the library a few months ago. 481 pages was too much for me. With renewed interest in her poetry since her death last month, I tried a slimmer volume. Thirst was a wonderful choice, and is a great recommendation for anybody new to Mary Oliver. Dedicated to her longtime partner, who died shortly before this collection was published, there is much grief reflected in some of these poems. But much hope shines through, too ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
”I row my beautiful, temporary body
    through this water-lily world.”
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My favourite poet, a “nature poet,” tries her hand here in doing religion/spirituality. I like one the most:


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

As an “epilogue” she gave us this, which carries the book’s title:


Another morning and I wake with thirst
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
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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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The Uses Of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.”
More quotes…