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This review is taken from PN Review 195, Volume 37 Number 1, September - October 2010.

FINDING THE BLOOM
MARY OLIVER, Evidence (Bloodaxe) £8.95.
MOLLY PEACOCK, The Second Blush (Norton) £9.99

CIARAN CARSON, On The Night Watch (Old Castle) £11.95


Mary Oliver is still roaming the protected lands of Provincetown, Cape Cod’s land’s end, to find inspiration for her ecstatic nature-based poetry. Early on, in her latest book, she announces:

this is a book
   of the heart’s rapture
      of hearing and praising.

Her characteristic drop-down lines slow her poems to the rhythm of rapture (and make her sound more profound than she might be). She celebrates her wonder at ‘creation’, the gift of ‘the wholesome world’, the happiness of ‘being alive/on a patch/of this green earth’, and gives thanks ‘to the beauty of the world’, which in an Emersonian vein is ‘a prayer for us all’ and with which she wants blissfully and blessedly ‘to be/in partnership’. Add an easy environmental consciousness, as in ‘Violets’ (‘…when the necessary houses were built/they were gone…/ …what shall take your place?’), and it’s understandable why Oliver has a loyal following among nostalgists for a lost Arcadia.

Oliver’s biggest drawback has always been her solipsism. She usually can’t celebrate more than herself. She can’t brag for humanity, only herself. Though she reaches out to her reader, often in the curt tone of Emily Dickinson (‘Faith/is the instructor./ We need no other./I hope that you too/know the honey locust’), she still sees the world through a prism of her own delight. It is as if ...


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