Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver

by Casee Marie on August 13, 2014 · 0 comments

in Nonfiction, Reviews

Thirst is Mary Oliver’s 2006 collection, containing forty-three works from the poet that frame her experiences in the time after her partner of four decades passed away. While her poems always have a way of exposing the rawness of nature and freedom and love, here she sets her sights on slightly different territory: namely the nakedness of grief and the honesty of passing through it, back to the place of comfort that looks slightly different after knowing loss. Sweetly, peacefully, she faces that place with hope and courage. Some poems are decidedly more religious in context than some of her others, but with ever as much food for the secular soul. As she explores her encounters with Christianity she reveals her prayers directly while remaining faithful (as it were) to the religion that has always governed her work: the naturalness and beauty of the world rustic world.

I had such a longing for virtue, for company.
I wanted Christ to be as close as the cross I wear.
I wanted to read and serve, to touch the altar linen.
Instead I went back to the woods where not a single tree turns its face away.

Instead I prayed, oh Lord, let me be something
useful and unpretentious.
Even the chimney swift sings.
Even the cobblestones have a task to do, and do it well.

Lord, let me be a flower, even a tare; or a sparrow.
Or the smallest bright stone in a ring worn by someone
brave and kind, whose name I will never know.

- More Beautiful Than the Honey Locust Tree are the Words of the Lord

Also in this collection is one of her most famous poems, slight and timeless, “The Uses of Sorrow” (Someone I loved once gave me / a box full of darkness. / It took me years to understand / that this, too, was a gift.). That poem serves as a breaking point, one can imagine; it calls to mind the feeling of sliding through the melancholy of memories and into the place where they evoke happiness and comfort again. With such topics as loss and grief as her muse, Oliver gives a remarkable example of the power of hope as she offers some of her characteristically whimsical and pensive lines, reminding us again of the boundless expanse of imagination.

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

Also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

- Heavy

Exquisite, wise, and affecting, Thirst proves the unequivocal fact that Mary Oliver’s poems are the lifeblood of grace and harmony; and of gratitude, even in the face of great loss.

Title: Thirst
Author: Mary Oliver
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Beacon Press
Release date: October 15, 2006
Source: local library
Buy the book:
Amazon/Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
More on the author:
Website | Facebook

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This week is really big for new releases, particularly in general fiction. There are some anticipated new works from contemporary masters, such as Haruki Murakami’s latest, but there are also a few debuts – Sarah Creech, Gabriel Weston, and Martha Woodroof, to name a few. In mystery, the writing duo of Charles Todd is back with a new Bess Crawford book, as well as new work from James Rollins, Asa Larsson, and others. In sci-fi, Robin Hobb, Karina Halle, and Marlene Perez all have new releases. Romance has new work from Debbie Macomber, Cherise Sinclair, and Catherine Bybee. In young adult, Stephanie Perkins is back with Isla and the Happily Ever After (third in a series that I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about). Meanwhile in new adult there’s work from Rachel Van Dyken, J.S. Cooper, and more. In nonfiction, a new memoir from Kathleen Flinn and a look inside a Cambodian orphanage with Gail Gutradt. Last, as ever, are the new-to-paperbacks: Wally Lamb, Margaret Atwood, and Matt Haig, among a bunch of others. Have fun this week, readers!

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I mentioned recently that my friend and fellow blogger Stephanie Shar has recently published her first e-book, and I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on it today while Steph simultaneously guest posts on my other blog, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. Be sure to check that out, as she’s also giving away an copy of her e-book to a lucky reader!

In 7 Steps to Living Loudly: Discover Who You Are, Decide What You Need and Create the Life You Want, Stephanie draws on her passion for inspiring others as she breaks down her method for living Loudly. In keeping with the theme of her popular blog, The Loudmouth Lifestyle, she delves into the essence of the Loud movement: living fully and happily by following your dreams, loving yourself, and surrounding yourself with people that will inspire you on your journey. The seven steps are to Be You, Be Passionate, Be Honest, Be Present, Be Bold, Be Loved, and Be Loud; each step is also followed up by a journal prompt that helps the reader engage even more in the material.

7 Steps to Living Loudly is a small book that inspires a big experience. As she highlights the necessary phases of changing one’s life for the better, Stephanie keeps her message straightforward and her ideas organized, while also keeping her method open for the reader’s creativity to interpret. The seven steps can be approached at once – say, in one quiet evening’s dedicated study – or spaced out for deeper, more long-term work. A great idea is to attribute each step to a different day, spending a bit of time each morning or night (or both) with one step before moving on to the next; some readers may even be inclined to stretch each step out into a week, coming up with new ways to apply Stephanie’s advice and achieve related goals, like being more open to social situations or increasing one’s self-esteem. Likewise, the book can be returned to again and again, the steps followed through repeatedly, in order for readers to make Living Loudly a natural part of their everyday.

Stephanie writes with compassion, wit, and honesty; she becomes an instant friend to the reader, sitting down for drinks or coffee and some deep, motivating conversation. Though her narrative is breezy and lighthearted, she’s not afraid to dig deep and deliver some powerful truths. One of the most memorable moments for me came when she wrote, “You won’t know what love is supposed to look like until you love yourself, unconditionally.” Through this and many other messages, Stephanie’s wisdom and heartfelt support helped me to uncover some of the blocks in my own life and encouraged me to work hard at busting through them. Her journal prompts are simple in the way that they won’t seem daunting or intimidating to the reader, but they’re also effective, which is a difficult combination to achieve. As a debut, 7 Steps to Living Loudly shows Stephanie’s confidence and determination, as well as her genuine gift for inspirational writing; and as a source of motivation in living a happy, fulfilling life, it’s a great resource.

Enter the giveaway @ The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower

(It’s a .PDF so you don’t need an e-reader to enjoy!)

Title: 7 Steps to Living Loudly: Discover Who You Are, Decide What You Need and Create the Life You Want

Author: Stephanie Shar

Genre: nonfiction, self-help, inspiration

Publisher: Stephanie Shar

Release date: June 8, 2014

Source: Stephanie Shar (c/o)

Buy the book: Dress Loudly

More from the author: Blog | Facebook | Twitter

In her memoir, Ezra and Hadassah: A Portrait of American Royalty, author Heather Young weaves the intricate, painful story of her childhood with her brother Rex as helpless victims of the state. Born Hadassah and Ezra, the siblings spent the early years of their lives between a foster home and weekends spent with their biological parents. As children of parents overpowered by mental illness, Ezra and Hadassah were at the mercy of Children’s Services, a system that failed them when they were sent first to an unloving foster home and later adopted into an abusive family. With their names changed to Heather and Rex, the two grew up in an environment rife with physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse that would determine the course of their lives. In Ezra and Hadassah, Young charts her unexpected journey to find her place and also tells the remarkable, heartbreaking story of how her brother Rex ultimately inspired her.

In straightforward and thoughtful prose the story of Heather and Rex’s lives engulfs the reader from the very first page, producing in vivid imagery the tumultuous experiences the siblings faced, from the few but meaningful positive memories to the plentiful and utterly tragic recollections of abuse. Some of Young’s memories she writes as being passed from her memory perhaps by will or even the residual shock of the trauma, but she recounts the details of her life with Rex and two other adopted children with honest and determined courage. What results is the devastating reality of two brave young people whose circumstances forced them away from everything they knew. Young openly admits to her readers the separation she and Rex faced when their home life drove them to fend for themselves, and she profoundly reflects on the many ways she wished she could have helped her brother, whose developmental struggles were not only ignored by his adoptive parents but also considered a reason for punishment. As Young explores the path Rex’s life took away from hers she also recalls her determination to escape her devastating situation, remembering the people who served as guiding lights as she traveled a very sad road. In the end, the reader comes to understand that the tragedy of their childhood impacted Heather and Rex’s view of the world in unexpected ways. As Heather starts a family of her own she discovers a profound strength of will, and years later when her life leads her back into contact with Rex she experiences how the power of faith can help a challenged man not only appreciate his life, but love with a selflessness most could only dream of.

While at many times a shocking account of the devastation of human nature, at its core Ezra and Hadassah is a story of triumph against all odds and of how unexpectedly entwined we are with the family into which we’re born. As an adult, Heather finds her biological parents back in her life and it is here, as well as in her relationship with her brother, that Young illustrates how sometimes the most conflicting, challenging relationships in our lives can come with the most heart. Through her deeply moving account of loss, struggle, and the search for love, Young opens herself to her readers with all the faith her brother instilled inside her and all the heartfelt honesty born into her from her parents; Ezra and Hadassah is a memoir about endurance in tragic circumstances and, above all, about the roles other people play in our lives, from the villains to the unexpected and beloved heroes.

Title: Ezra and Hadassah: A Portrait of American Royalty

Author: Heather Young

Genre: memoir

Publisher: Heather Young

Release date: January 15, 2014

Source: Heather Young (c/o)

Buy the book:
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Connect with the author:
Website/Blog | Goodreads

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