Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Mary Oliver has written collections of essays: Blue Pastures (1995) and Winter Hours (1999). Although the essays are mainly prose meditations, some are written in poetic form. The subject matter is the creation of poetry, by Oliver herself or by poets who have influenced her. Blue Pastures celebrates the creative power of imagination, its capacity to reorder circumstances and to enter the natural world to find comfort, community, and joy. The meditations center on ponds, trees, animals, and seasons and on Romantic writers who looked to nature: Walt Whitman, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, in whose house Oliver lived periodically for several years after college, serving as an assistant to Millay’s sister.

Winter Hours takes up the same lines but offers essays and prose poems more sharply focused on the making of poems. Three essays consider the qualities that make powerful writing in the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, and Whitman.

Long Life: Essays and Other Writings (2004) is a collection of essays and other writings in which Oliver intersperses personal reflections in poetry and essay form. Oliver has also published two works that instruct readers concerning the writing and reading of poetry: A Poetry Handbook (1994) and Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse (1998). Oliver also provided text to accompany the photographs of the late Molly Malone Cook in Our World (2007).