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Mary Oliver: Criticism and Reviews

Beacon Press features an excerpt from a New York Times review on Oliver's New and Selected Poems.

Book Review of Mary Oliver's White Pines by Amy Beth Tomcavage.

Modern American Poets has reviews of several of Oliver's poems.

The Face and Place of Poetry features an interview with Mary Oliver in which she discusses her work.

Additional criticism and review of Mary Oliver's works can be found at your local public library.

The following reviews can be accessed online only by an individual who has a current library card through this address.

"Review of No Voyage, and Other Poems."
Critic: Wallace Kaufman.
Agenda, Vol. 4, Nos. 5 & 6, Autumn, 1966, pp. 58-60.

In the review, Kaufman "finds Oliver's poems in No Voyage, and Other Poems to be more personal than the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay."

"The Language of Dreams: An Interview with Mary Oliver."
Critic: Eleanor Swanson.
The Bloomsbury Review, Vol. 10, No. 3, May/June, 1990, pp. 1, 6.

In this interview, "Oliver discusses poetry criticism, poetry workshops, and how her poetry has changed since her early work."

"Review of House of Light."
Critic: Eleanor Swanson.
The Bloomsbury Review, Vol. 10, No. 3, May/June, 1990, pp. 1, 28.

In her review, "Swanson finds House of Light to be a contemplative exploration of the paradoxes of nature to reveal the self."

"Poetry Chronicle."
Critic: Dennis Sampson.
The Hudson Review, Vol. 44, No. 2, Summer, 1991, pp. 333-42.

In the review, "Sampson asserts that House of Light 'yields… to everything in nature that is holy.'"

"Inside History."
Critic: Lee Upton.
Belles Lettres, Vol. 6, No. 4, Summer, 1991, pp. 42-4.

In this review, "Upton notes Oliver's connection of dissimilar images in House of Light."

"World and Spirit, Body and Soul."
Critic: Ben Howard.
Poetry, Vol. 158, No. 6, September, 1991, pp. 342-43.

In his review of House of Light, "Howard finds that Oliver's poems 'evoke the fears, sorrows, and joys of the solitary spirit.'"

"Review of House of Light."
Critic: David Baker.
The Kenyon Review, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter, 1991, pp. 192-202.

In his review, "Baker questions the isolationist and self-righteous tendencies in Oliver's poetry."

"Natural History."
Critic: Robyn Selman.
Village Voice, Vol. 38, No. 2, January 12, 1993, pp. 81-2.

In this review of New and Selected Poems, "Selman praises Oliver's composure, sincerity, and dedication to her subject."

"Review of New and Selected Poems."
Critic: Judith Kitchen.
The Georgia Review, Vol. 47, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 145-59.

In her review, "Kitchen notes a disparity between earlier poems which feature a division between nature and narrator and later poems in which the narrator becomes one with nature."

"Review of New and Selected Poems."
Critic: David Barber.
Poetry, Vol. 162, No. 4, July, 1993, pp. 233-42.

In his review, "Barber praises Oliver for her unique presence in contemporary poetry, but finds that New and Selected Poems fails to adequately show her growth as a poet."

"Review of American Primitive."
Critic: Carolyne Wright.
Prairie Schooner, Vol. 59, No. 3, Fall, 1985, pp. 108-112.

In Wright's review, "she finds in Oliver's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection both stunningly original and clichéd elements."

"Intimations of Mortality."
Critic: Maxine Kumin.
Women's Review of Books, Vol. 10, No. 7, April, 1993, p. 19.

In this review of New and Selected Poems, "Kumin praises Oliver for 'reaching for the unattainable while grateful for its unattainability.'"

"The Innocence of a Mirror."
Critic: Paul Oppenheimer.
American Book Review, Vol. 15, No. 4, October-November, 1993, p. 11.

In his essay, "Oppenheimer reviews New and Selected Poems and praises Oliver for maintaining an honest balance in her portrayals of nature."

"Review of A Poetry Handbook."
Critic: Susan Salter Reynolds.
The Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 12, 1994, p. 6.

In her review, "Reynolds applauds Oliver for going beyond a how-to format to 'connect the conscious mind and the heart.'"

"Meditative Gazing on Contemporary Poetry."
Critic: Robert Hosmer.
The Southern Review, Vol. 30, No. 3, Summer, 1994, pp. 638-40.

"Hosmer reviews New and Selected Poems and praises Oliver's work for its simplicity and clarity."

"'Into the Body of Another': Mary Oliver and the Poetics of Becoming Other."
Critic: Vicki Graham.
Papers on Language and Literature, Vol. 30, No. 4, Fall, 1994, pp. 352-72.

In her essay, "Graham discusses Oliver's (and by extension, her readers') ability to 'become' the various natural bodies she writes about."

"Review of A Poetry Handbook and White Pine."
Critic: Thomas R. Smith.
Bloomsbury Review, Vol. 15, No. 4, July-August, 1995, p. 28.

"Smith praises A Poetry Handbook for providing an incisive guide for students of poetry and notes an emphasis on storytelling and mythmaking in White Pine."

"Review of Dream Work."
Critic: Alicia Ostriker.
The Nation, Vol. 243, No. 5, August 30, 1986, pp. 148-150.

Ostriker "applauds the lyricism of Dream Work and notes a shift in emphasis from the natural world in Oliver's earlier works to more human-based themes in this collection."

"Six Poets in Search of a History."
Critic: Sandra M. Gilbert.
Poetry, Vol. 150, No. 2, May, 1987, pp. 113-16.

In her review, Gilbert "applauds Oliver for mining the natural world to 'learn the lessons of survival.'"

"Some Thoughts on the Line."
Critic: Mary Oliver.
The Ohio Review, Vol. 38, 1987, pp. 41-6.

In this essay, "Oliver discusses the mechanics of poetry and how length and tone variations can result in a wide range of effects."

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