Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Diversion, Poetry, FELICITY by Mary Oliver

[Did you notice that the New York Times filled most of its book review section yesterday with poetry??]

Life in New England collides with Robert Frost's poems so often. Stone walls, woods roads that fork, apple picking, running errands while talking to one's horse -- well, okay, not that last one so much. But almost. At any rate, it's intriguing to see which poets pin down the threads of life here in Vermont in ways that can't be forgotten. And I'm glad to extend that investigation to other parts of New England. (Beyond those borders, I'm no expert on the quality of match between terrain and poem.)

So I keep an eye on the works of Mary Oliver, Cape Cod poet par excellence (in recent years residing in Florida) and also poet of the heart, and of dog lovers everywhere. Turtle and frog lovers may also indulge.

Oliver's 2015 collection FELICITY -- oddly marked 2016 on the front of the title page -- is a sparse and thin volume with 81 numbered pages, many of which are blank or only bear a few lines. This may be helpful in absorbing the more philosophical poems, which tend to be also very short, verging on koan. One I enjoyed, called "Don't Worry," is four lines long, so this is half of the poem: "How many roads did St. Augustine follow / before he became St. Augustine?"

The first half of the collection has some of the nature/spirit conjunctions that make Oliver's work enthralling -- trees, swans, a storm --  but also rambles through light mystical observations, and I thought, "I've found more substance than this in her earlier collections."

But when I reached the last two sections of the collection, "Love" and "Felicity," I could hear the teasing and passion of this poet's voice much more clearly. And it was well worth the reading.

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