This month’s Across the Page features four noteworthy poetry collections, including: Mary Oliver’s new release, Evidence; Audre Lorde’s The Black Unicorn; Marilyn Hacker’s Desesperanto, and British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture.
Evidence by Mary Oliver (Beacon)
Mary Oliver’s new collection of poetry, Evidence, includes forty-six poems that show why this prolific writer is so beloved and respected.
Evidence is Oliver’s nineteenth book of poetry and though the poems pick up on her familiar themes of nature, spirituality, love and humanity, she continues to offer a fresh perspective and to encourage readers to “behold/ the reliability and the finery and the teachings/ of this gritty earth gift.”
Oliver may be an optimist, but she is not a blind optimist.
She recognizes the beauty in the world alongside humanity’s inability to maintain or care for it. She understands the heart’s music (“My heart, that used to pump along so pleasantly”), but also knows that there are times when a “wild man” can take over the orchestra and wreak havoc.
Evidence begins with an epigraph by Kierkegaard, “We create ourselves by our choices,” and, indeed, many of the poems in the collection focus on the choice of perception — how we chose to see and absorb, love and disregard, the world and those around us.
Many of the poems in Evidence also focus on the moments or transitions in life where our perspective begins to change. In “Halleluiah,” Oliver explains that “Everyone should be born into this world happy/ and loving everything./ But in truth it rarely works that way.” She admits that she has spent her life “clamoring” for happiness, and then the poem poses several questions to the reader:
Oliver is known for her depictions of animals and her ability to use them to reflect larger question of spirituality. In “Almost a Conversation,” she imagines talking to an otter and examines their slow process of learning how to trust and understand each other through body language:
Evidence is a beautiful book filled with poems that force the reader to slow down, reflect, and, yes, even see the world through a more generous and appreciative lens.