Upstream: Selected Essays - Mary Oliver

Staff Pick

“I would say that there exist a thousand breakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one,” so writes Mary Oliver in an essay on the hope that lies within winter’s darkness.  It is a sentiment expressed everywhere in Mary Oliver’s deceptively simple poetry.  And so too in her deceptively simple prose, as is clear in her collection of essays, Upstream.  In meditations on the natural world and on the everyday sensibilities contained within daily life, she notes those breakable links as well as the underlying bonds of oneness. Oliver explores this further in critical essays on writers who serve as her forerunners—Emerson, Whitman, Wordsworth—and in an essay on Poe whose pessimism might seem to stand opposite the affirmation that defines her work.  But in his work she sees the same transcendental linkages between life and death, despair and hope, the same striving to overcome the artifice of writing by grasping the real.  She continues in the passage quoted above:

“The farthest star and the mud at our feet are family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list.  The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves -- we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together.  We are each other’s destiny.”

Upstream: Selected Essays By Mary Oliver Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594206702
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - October 11th, 2016