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Why I Wake Early
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Why I Wake Early

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  5,881 ratings  ·  522 reviews
The forty-seven new works in this volume include poems on crickets, toads, trout lilies, black snakes, goldenrod, bears, greeting the morning, watching the deer, and, finally, lingering in happiness. Each poem is imbued with the extraordinary perceptions of a poet who considers the everyday in our lives and the natural world around us and finds a multitude of reasons to wa ...more
Paperback, 71 pages
Published April 15th 2005 by Beacon Press (first published 2004)
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Average rating 4.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,881 ratings  ·  522 reviews

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Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver continues to rip my heart out, cleanse it, and return it to me better than when she took it.
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
RIP, Mary Oliver, 1/17/19

Summer's 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 praye
Kevin Fanning
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. I think it’s taken my whole life to appreciate a book like this, poetry that is quiet and humble and confronts the spiritual and the unknowable without starting from a place of pain and negativity.

Favorites include:

Why I Wake Early:
Watch, now, how I start the day / in happiness, in kindness.

Freshen the Flowers, She Said:
Fifteen minutes of music / with nothing playing.

Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around / as t
Mary Oliver, who wrote poetry AND prose for over a 60 year period, died recently at the age of 83. I had first read about Mary and her beautiful poetry in the book, End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. As Will's mother Maryann lay dying, he read her the poem Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?. God is mentioned more than once in this poem. Even though Maryann was breathing her last breaths, Will noticed perhaps a flutter in her eyes as she heard the word God.

As I read the bea
Jon Nakapalau
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Mary Oliver is able to connect with nature in a truly unique way. Very beautiful expression of our connection with the cycle of life.
Gorgeous hymns to clouds, deer, snakes, beans... for atheists, Buddhists, Christians.... Accessible and challenging simultaneously so it doesn't matter whether you're new to poetry or not. Not a dud in the lot. I can't choose favorites, but maybe give you samples. *The Dovekie* is wonderful, but you have to read the whole (1 page) thing.

from: _*The Pinewoods*_

Just before dawn
three deer came walking...

I did not really see them.
I came later, and saw their tracks
on the empty sand.
But I don't b
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites

The word reminds me of the early hours when there are no thoughts of rush, when every single thing takes its time. It feels as if the world has been rehearsing this moment for perfection. Cue the sunrise. Cue the first singing voice of the day. Choir, you are up next.

Every little thing sounds so loud in the silence of the morning. Peace is palpable. There's a sense of plenitude. Your breath falls in rhythm with the surroundings. The air smells of possibilities, of new beginnings.

It's bot
Elizabeth A
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, poetry
In celebration of National Poetry Month (April), my partner and I decided to each write a daily haiku. It was a fun and restorative way to process some of our COVID-19 quarantine emotions. The other fun thing I did was read this collection. It might well be the first completed collection of Oliver's I've read - I've dabbled in her works here and there over the years. I read these poems over several days before bed. I read each one twice. Once to understand what it was about, and the second time ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Her writing makes me pause and savor. To contemplate more deeply and breathe in. To want to write about the beauty in this life, or at least take notice of it. One day I want to live in the country again and lay down in the grass with my children and watch tiny bugs on waving grass. Until then, I'll try to look up at the sky more often, to know how things feel, to love the shadows and light on the walls, and to be alive in the bright wind and the everyday things that are given. ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-books, poetry
Nature focused like her other work but a much stronger religious bent than I expected. I like her newer work much better.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Mary Oliver poetry and I am sure it will not be my last. Her poems in this volume are beautiful, accessible, and tied to an appreciation of nature. I checked out the library e-book, but this is a collection I would like to own. I've been trying to live more meaningfully and with more gratitude for the world around me and Oliver's poems--like the titular one below capture that feeling for me.
We should all start the day in happiness and in kindness.

"Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Just more beautiful poetry by the great old woman who, oh-my-goodness, just makes words sing out such lush pictures of our world. She writes poems that share with us those clear, precise images of such beauty--or the tragedy found in the natural world--and her sense of them: the joy, the sweetness, the knowing of immediate, sublime pleasure in something that is only here for just this moment. But oh, what a moment. Captured, in Mary Oliver's words. It's like she writes with a crystal pen tip, an ...more
Kara Belden
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 nowhere near as deeply touching as Truro Bear, but enjoyable and worth the time nonetheless.
May 12, 2021 added it
Shelves: poetry
(i don’t rate poetry collections) easily my favorite poet. this collection is about the natural world ranging from crickets to bears. it is quiet and beautiful and reminds you to slow down and remember what our earth has to offer.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4 1/2 stars, really. I’m a late-comer to Mary Oliver (Thank you, Terry Glaspey). Lots of “nature“ in these poems, especially birds (see below). Even though I have lived in Florida for 31 years and, before then, in Oregon for almost 7 years, I remain a New Englander at heart. Fall, snow, cranberry bogs, pine woods, beaches in winter, bare trees, goldenrod in late summer are in my DNA. My parents lived year-round on Cape Cod for 25 years, so her descriptions of the world at the far end of the Cape ...more
James Murphy
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've read and enjoyed lots of Oliver's poetry. I'd never noticed her writing from a religious viewpoint before. Or else I didn't remember, it being a few years since I've read her. I don't hold it against a writer if she articulates her faith. But a fact of poetry written from a religious impulse is that a secular reader can't or may not appreciate, ultimately, what the poet wishes to express. However beautifully written, it doesn't always make for interesting poetry. Why Mary Oliver wakes early ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Exceptionally calming in these crazy days. Exactly what I needed to clear my head and remember the majesty of our planet.
Cynthia Egbert
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I just have to turn to Mary Oliver again and again when I need to be refreshed and I am at a place in my life when I really need to be washed over with beauty in words as only Mary Oliver can do.

I have a favourite quote that I will be using over and over: "All things are inventions of holiness. Some more rascally than others."

These are my favourites poems...

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam
Connie Sadowinski
I really enjoyed Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver. This is one of those books that draws you in. You can literally imagine and hear the nature that surrounds you. A book that I will return to again and again. For all the nature and poetry lovers out there, this book doesn’t disappoint.
Yelda Basar Moers
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, poetry
Sadly, not one of my favorite Mary Oliver compilations...This one did not stir me.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A few favorites:

Some excerpts:

There are things you can't reach. But
you can reach out to them, all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

- from Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?

What do I know.
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun
lights up willingly; for example - I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch-
the suitability of the field for the
Grace Lindsey
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Smiled to myself as I read out loud. Every time I wake up before 8, I think to myself, “I bet Mary Oliver would be proud of me.” The perfect book for a return to the beach.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grateful to have found Mary Oliver's poetry and to find that I don't hate *all* types of poetry. ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mary Oliver is brilliant! I incurred a late fee on this from the library so that I could keep it longer and share with my parents. We all agreed that you can use the poems as a daily meditation on gratefulness for our natural surroundings. Last night, I read some out loud to my Mom and Bill while we were hanging out. So sweet. I think I'll be giving Mary Oliver as gifts in the future! ...more
Whitney Borup
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I'm trying to read more poetry this year. This seems like a good place to start. I love this: "I believe I will never quite know. / Though I play at the edges of knowing, / truly I know / our part is not knowing, / but looking, and touching, and loving, / which is the way I walked on, / softly, / through the pale-pink morning light." ...more
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Can I give this book 10 stars - or 100? I do wake early - and read this book over and over again - and send the poems to friends for special birthdays. Most all the wisdom of life, and the rewards of watching the world, are contained within 71 slim pages.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful. My all time favorite poet. Sometimes when I am spiritually dead and dry, I pick up one of Mary Oliver's books, and this one is a favorite. Her poems inspire me, and make me feel "connected" again. ...more
Heather Bottoms
I’d read Upstream, a book of Oliver’s essays, and knew I wanted to read some of her poetry. This is a lovely collection, and a perfect choice when I needed to redirect my brain and heart towards goodness and peace and gratitude.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poeta-sum
06/28/20: this book is worth ten thousand rereads :0)


there are things you can't reach. but
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

the wind, the bird flying away. the idea of God.

and it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Why I Wake Early reminds me why I love poetry so much. Mary Oliver can make the smallest of events, experiences, or animals explode into an incredible wave of meaning, emotion, and self-awareness.
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Around the Year i...: Why I Wake Early, by Mary Oliver 1 7 May 20, 2019 07:19AM  

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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 Old Poets Of China

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.”

It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their -- if you don't
mind my saying so -- their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example -- I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch --
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.”
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