American Primitive : Poems by Mary Oliver
Boston : Little, Brown & Co., 1983. Second printing. Hardcover. 88 pages ; 21 cm. Price clipped dust jacket. Gift inscription on the half-title page, no other markings within this book. Pulitzer prize-winning sticker on the dust jacket front. Tape residue and small rip to the rear of the dust jacket. Binding is firm.
The fifty poems in American Primitive make up a book of luminous unity, dealing with a coast and a continent, two symbols for the continuum between life and death that we can understand only by looking outside ourselves. These poems consist of.. the cords / of my body stretching / and singing in the / heaven of appetite." They take their shape from natural things and circumstances: "The rain rubs its shining / hands all over me." Their speaker "... ate / chunks of pure light."
Though Mary Oliver celebrates nature, she celebrates it in both its growth and its decay. She writes of ghosts, of the Indian ghost-dance that yearned to summon the buffaloes back from death to life. It is the sort of dance that all poetry participates in. Mary Oliver's poems enunciate the renewals of nature, the renewals of humanity in love, in oneness with the natural, in union with the things of this world. Lyrical and elegiac, Mary Oliver celebrates the primitive things of America—the wilderness that survives both within our bodies and outside.
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