Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Swan: Poems and Prose Poems” as Want to Read:
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,268 ratings  ·  154 reviews
“Joy is not made to be a crumb,” writes Mary Oliver, and certainly joy abounds in her new book of poetry and prose poems. Swan, her twentieth volume, shows us that, though we may be “made out of the dust of stars,” we are of the world she captures here so vividly: the acorn that hides within it an entire tree; the wings of the swan like the stretching light of the river; t ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Swan, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Swan

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,268 ratings  ·  154 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I bought Mary Oliver's recent copy of poetry titled Swan and read it over my solitary dinner. It is a slim volume full of lyrical treasures. I guess I will leave you with the titular poem. In it she whisks you away to the natural world and then hits you in the gut with a burning question at the end. God I love her.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk
David J
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
"A name / is not a leash."

Not my favorite from Oliver but still pretty damn good.
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I reread this at 11,000 feet, after a wildflower hike, watching the weather come in, feeling and smelling and breathing the rain, and dancing in it. I listen, Mary O, I really do. Some of the same poems spoke to me, some new ones had a voice I was ready for this time.

What Can I Say
What can I say that I have not said
before? So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience. Inside
the river there is an unfinishable
story and you are somewhere
in it and it will never
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, mary-oliver
and the heart, if it is still alive,

feels something—
a yearning
for which we have no name

but which we may remember,
years later,
in the darkness,

upon some other empty road.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Two weeks ago, I was staying at a friend's home. While the couple of the house put their kids to bed, I read from Mary Oliver's "New and Selected Poems: Volume One."

This volume was written when Mary Oliver was 74, and her wisdom, life experience and focused appreciation of the natural world show throughout. The poet exhibits humor as well. Mostly, I hear Mary Oliver's voice.

I was finishing up the book while on a train, and a woman sitting across asked me what I was reading. I asked her and her f
This one had a couple of things I quite liked, but overall it didn't resonate that much with me.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another great book of poems from Mary Oliver. Most poems were about nature. She favors foxes and tells sweet stories about her dog, Percy. My favorite poem from this book is about Queen Anne's lace.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
It is good to discover new material. This isn’t new. In fact, I tried on Oliver’s poems over the years and never found a good fit. Until now. Something in these poems grabbed me. I can point to a few instances that say more about what I’ve read in the past than anything else. Take “Bird in the Pepper Tree.”

Don’t mind my inexplicable delight
in knowing your name,
little Wilson’s Warbler
yellow as a lemon, with a smooth black cap.

Just do what you do and don’t worry, dipping
branch by branch down to
I felt elated finishing this book tonight. What a joy of my life to read Mary Oliver.
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Oddly enough, this was my first acquaintance with the celebrated Mary Oliver. Although I'm not generally a fan of nature poetry, this collection had a homespun wisdom and humor that won me instantly and kept me smiling, reading and rereading each spare and often quirky poem. I do count myself her fan now. Also, what a pleasure to hold such a truly beautiful book for a change: well-designed, handsomely printed on quality, acid-free paper and hardbound. Too rare a treat now that publishers have tu ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read a library copy. Stuck to the outside was a tiny sticker that read +2.25. Someone ahead of me seems to have bought glasses to read this book.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Beans Green and Yellow

In fall
it is mushrooms
gathered from dampness
under the pines;
in spring
I have known
the taste of the lamb
full of milk
and spring grass;
it is beans green and yellow
and lettuce and basil
from my friend's garden—
how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth.


I wanted to speak at length about
the happiness of my body and the
delight of my mind for it was
April, night, a
full moon and—

but something in myself or maybe
from somewhere other said: not too
Mira | I Read Like Phoebe Runs
When it's over, it's over, and we don't know
any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, in my whole life, I have never missed
The full moon
or the slipper of its coming back.
Or, a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.

Mary Oliver is on her way to becoming one of my all time favorite authors and poets. These words, they flow easily into my soul, making me feel, even for the tiniest while, refreshed and somehow anew.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
”The life of the body is, I suppose, along with
everything else, a lesson. I mean, if lessons are
what you look for.”

it is a great way to start off my morning by reading mary oliver because whatever happens throughout the day (good or bad) i can at least comfort myself with having had a moment with her words in the early hours, it is the greatest luxury.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Winner: "Don't Hesitate," a prose poem which ends "Joy is not made to be a crumb:" a fantastic sentiment.

Adorable: lots of attention, repeated through several poems, to a chance spotting of a fox.

Inscrutable: "Tom Dancer's Gift of a Whitebark Pine Cone." I'm not mature enough to leave this one alone.
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Possibly my favorite collection of Mary Oliver poems. But I think that after pretty much every poetry collection by her.
Rachel Y
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, female-author
Tender lovely Mary Oliver. I can make a bed in her descriptions - the shock of seeing a fox at night by the side of the road. The fox! The fox!
Kent Winward
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A true master.

And this book sort of metaphorically answers the question, "What does the fox say?"
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my first Mary Oliver book -- and maybe the first book of poetry that I have bought since....1978? Anyway....this gets 5 stars, which is my rating for a book that I think (most) everyone should read. We can all benefit from a quiet read of many of the poems in this slim book.
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver -- Another dear, dear friend gave me this book! What riches!! I can't say I've finished it, because you never finish with a book of poetry, but I have given all the poems a once-over, and some more than a once. It's a lovely book. I love the way Mary Oliver brought nature into the hearts and minds of so many preachers only to discover sacramental Christianity herself late in life. Here's a poem, "How Many Days" that describes the tension between the t ...more
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, library
Another beautiful Mary Oliver book.

Some real standout especially the first poem "What Can I Say."

What Can I Say
by Mary Oliver

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
Mark Robison
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If I could only read one writer for the rest of my life, it would be Mary Oliver. I never tire of her. A sample poem picked at random from “Swan,” this one called “The Sweetness of Dogs”: What do you say, Percy? I am thinking/ of sitting out on the sand to watch/ the full moon rise. Full tonight./ So we go // and the moon rises, so beautiful it/ makes me shudder, makes me think about/ time and space, makes me take/ measure of myself: one iota/ pondering heaven. Thus we sit,// I thinking how grat ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of the leading contemporary spiritual poets, Oliver's way with words is stunning and captivating. Phrases stick in my heart and become one with my bones. This book includes many texts I expect to hear in future worship services in many traditions and also quoted in book clubs and in epigrams. There is less of the nature poet in this text, more meditations on living daily with the dead and dying, and much, much, much more on joy as the song of the world. Buy it: you'll take it off your shelf ...more
Lisa Roney
May 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Some of these poems are very beautiful, while others seem to me banal and formulaic. I felt almost as though I were reading an idea notebook rather than a fully formed and perfected book of poetry. There are some wonderfully worthwhile ones, and so I'll just forget the forgettable ones.
Heather Mize
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After Jeanette's post about Mary Oliver the other day I've had her on the brain. Decided to re-read this one. Mary Oliver always makes you realize and remember the important things. My favorite collection is still Red Bird. But, this one is great too. I just love her.
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What can I say that I have not said. To read Mary Oliver is to glimpse the eternal by way of her pen.
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book because I stumbled upon "I worried" online. I'm a long time fan or Mary Oliver but that is my new favorite poem. The book did not disappoint.
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Half of the poems are marked for me to copy and come back to. Oliver is a life-affirming poet, someone who never fails to make me take a moment and appreciate what is around me.
McKenzie Richardson
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

Wow, what a beautiful collection of poems.

I picked this up on a whim from the Recently Returned cart at the library. I've been trying to read more poetry lately and was drawn in my the simple title and lovely cover art.

Then I started reading it. Oh my goodness. This is the first book by Mary Oliver that I have read and I was not prepared for how lovely it would be.

The book consists of poems inspired by the natural world. From trees and flowers to
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buy, my-reviews, poetry
"Did you too see it, drifting, all night on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air,
an armful of white blossoms,
a perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
biting the air with its black beak?

Did you hear it, fluting and whistling,
a shrill dark music, like the rain pelting the trees,
like a waterfall
knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds-
a white cross str
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Given
  • After
  • Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
  • A Village Life
  • Astonishments: Selected Poems
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • Once in the West: Poems
  • Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest: Poems
  • The School Among the Ruins
  • The Dance Most of All: Poems
  • Thrall
  • Sinners Welcome
  • Good Poems: American Places
  • Stag's Leap: Poems
  • This Great Unknowing: Last Poems
  • Braided Creek
  • In the Next Galaxy
See similar books…
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
How I go to the woods

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don't Hesitate)” 352 likes
More quotes…