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Dream Work

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  2,517 ratings  ·  220 reviews
Dream Work, a collection of forty-five poems, follows both chronologically and logically Mary Oliver's American Primitive, which won for her the Pulitzer Prize for the finest book of poetry published in 1983 by an American poet. The depth and diversity of perceptual awareness-so steadfast and radiant in American Primitive-continue in Dream Work. Additionally, she has turne ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 7th 1994 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 1986)
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4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,517 ratings  ·  220 reviews

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Apr 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, nature
This book was good for my soul. A few of the poems are absolute treasures, so simple yet powerful that I read them four or five times over. Among those I would number “Morning Poem,” “Wild Geese” and “The Moths,” all of which I plan to read several more times, and maybe even try to memorize, before I return this book to the library. Usually Oliver’s way into wisdom is through nature, and the poems’ voice is as often “you” as it is “I,” making these universal sentiments that I can’t imagine anyon ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013books, poetry
I can't get over "Wild Geese"--I've read it and read it and written it on scraps of paper and read it again. "You do not have to be good" feels like the most important declaration I've ever read, and to find it in a poem, and to find it in a poem by Mary Oliver, feels like such a gift. I also love "Sunrise"--"You can / die for it-- / an idea, / or the world." And "The Moths": "If you notice anything, / it leads you to notice / more / and more." And "Shadows": "whatever / the name of the catastro ...more
"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on."
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
“Everywhere in this world his music
explodes out of itself, as he

could not. And now I understand
something so frightening, and wonderful –

how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing
through crossroads, sticking

like lint to the familiar.”

It’s impossible not to notice the differences between Dream Work, Why I Wake Early and Felicity. The feeling is not of growth, in-between the lines you won’t find whispers of evolution. No, Mary Oliver is just as immense across her body of work. What seems to
Zachary F.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story--
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

-from "Dogfish"

This was one of those "right place, right time" reads for me. I've been a casual fan of Mary
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“and if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.”

(from morning poem)

i think there is much to be said for difficulty, for ambiguity, for impenetrability; texts tha
Marianne Elliott
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I was given this book in February by a woman who must have seen right though me and known exactly what my dehydrated little soul was crying for. I was beginning to emerge from a dark, dark winter and here was Mary Oliver - choosing to find joy in each moment, choosing to celebrate triumph where it was to be found, choosing to find beauty in the world.

Many of the poems in this collection are deeply and precisely perceptive meditations on the creatures of nature - a dogfish, a shark, milkweed, bl
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've given up listing which Mary Oliver poetry books are my favorites. Each one is so beautiful and heartfelt that all of them might as well share the tie for the number one spot. DREAM WORK is no exception. Each poem - be it about nature, relationships, or observations from Oliver's travels - is like a meditation. Some are spirited, joyful, and bursting with gratitude. Others are contemplative, introspective, and a bit melancholy.

I can't speak for Oliver herself, but DREAM WORK feels like one
Eve Dangerfield
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2016, poetry
I do not know if there is any one in the world who has a soul as beautiful and delicate as Mary Oliver’s.

A friend gave me this book for Christmas, knowing how I love Wild Geese and The Journey. It proved to be good medicine for me, finishing the collection as I did on a day that I stayed home sick and feverish. I don't know how she can create poems of such nuanced complexity while remaining so incredibly simple-- Her poems somehow equally acknowledge the suffering in life and glorify the beauty
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: may-2017, kindle
I have wanted to read Mary Oliver's poetry for some years now, but have been left a little underwhelmed by my first experience of it. Whilst there is a lot of beauty within these poems, some of them lack substance. I wasn't blown away by any of Oliver's writing, despite the fact that it is often pretty, and none of the individual poems stood out for me. A little disappointing, particularly after I had expected to be dazzled.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
You do not have to be good.

My favourites in this collection are all in part I, and as always with Mary Oliver the experience was so heightened by reading the poems aloud to myself. It's incredible to me that she was able to write something before I was born that would one day find itself to me on a day that I really needed it. I love the magic of poetry!!
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
A re-read for me of this collection. Still soothing the soul.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I LOVE Mary Oliver’s poetry. It’s transcendent and moving and comforting. If you don’t read this whole collection please at least read “Wild Geese.”
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sigh. Mary Oliver is a most beautiful poet. I thought that reading a volume of her "New and Selected" books was all the Oliver I needed unless it was brand-new but I was wrong. Dreamwork is a collection of poems that have more personal content, more bearing of pain than the others I've come across. Take for instance this excerpt from "Dogfish":

I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of t
antoanela  safca
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you think poetry is not quite for you, or you find it a bit intimidating, these poems are going to challenge that 'fear' and refusal of poetry. Her language is so simple, relatable, and yet expressive. I thought there was an iresistible humility to her tone, a refusal to 'poeticise'. I re-read it as soon as I finished it and I will most likely read it again.
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I needed this! Maybe it's my nostalgic mood or the changing leaves or necessity, but this collection is my favorite so far. I feel revitalized, connected, un-alone in my view of the universe. Oliver is a master!
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, trauma
First published in 1986, this collection follows Mary Oliver's Pulitzer-Prize winning American Primitive. It's hard to rank Oliver's collections because so many of them are excellent, but this is certainly one of the strongest. It contains some of her most iconic poems, such as Wild Geese, One or Two Things, The Journey, and one of my personal favourites, The Moths. In The Moths, she gives an impression of the importance of small facets of nature and how they change her perspective,

If I stopped
Sue Thornquist
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Got on a poetry kick after hearing ON BEING with Krista Tippet's interview with poet Mary Oliver. While I was in Colorado, I purchased three of her slim volumes and would read them all over in nature. Even to Bruce as we were driving :). While I don't LOVE every one of her poems, I LOVE most of them and I LOVE how she expresses interesting thoughts in ordinary ways and in everyday experiences in nature. Beautiful imagery and emotion too. Made me record a few poems of my own.

One of my favorite po
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry


That winter it seemed the city
was always burning - night after night
the flames leaped, the ladders pitched forward.
Scorched but alive, the homeless wailed
as they ran for the cold streets.
That winter my mind had turned around,
shedding, like leaves, its bolts of imagination -
drilling down, through history,
toward my motionless heart.
Those days I was willing, but frightened.
What I mean is, I wanted to live my life
but I did't want to do what I had to do
to go on, which was: to go back.
All win
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wild geese is one of the most beautiful poems i've ever read & i think abt it all the time so i knew i'd love this collection but wow!!!! mary oliver rly is That Amazing!!!!

a few other fav poems: dogfish / shadows / the journey / milkweed / the waves / the shark / coming home
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dream Work is full of Mary Oliver magics. Wild Geese may be the most well-known work in this collection, but many of the other poems also filled me with wonder.
Heather Caliri
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read Mar Oliver’s work she helps me see more clearly the beauty AND darkness of the world.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Has some of my faves! The world lost an amazing voice-thankfully her work lives on.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
If the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

A balanced, comfortable collection.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My favorite of Mary Oliver's illustrious works.
Maybe my favorite Mary Oliver book of all time.

(SPL 2018 book bingo: LGBTQIA author or character)
Craig Werner
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Oliver's follow-up to American Primitive, the book that won the Pulitzer and established her as a major contemporary poet, is divided into two parts. The first focuses primarily on the strange dynamics of the dream world, in which images from the natural world resonate with psychic forces in ways that elude reduction to any sort of "take-home message." The second half takes those energies into the social world (though there are poems that feel more like those in the first half. The dream poems w ...more
David Ranney
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When we're driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we're weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place --- the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea ---
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything --- the h
Kevin Fanning
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. Good for people who are struggling with finding peace and cultivating compassion in a vast, indifferent universe. So, you know.

For personal reference, some of the ones I liked best:

"Dogfish" (Mostly, I want to be kind. / And nobody, of course, is kind, / or mean, / for a simple reason.)

"Wild Geese" (You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.)

"Members of t
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  • The House of Belonging
  • Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far
  • Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • The Darkness Around Us is Deep: Selected Poems
  • Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
  • Picnic, Lightning
  • Without: Poems
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • She Had Some Horses
  • The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems
  • The First Four Books of Poems
  • Blood, Tin, Straw
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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“I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

for a little while.”

Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn't it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I'm alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.”
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