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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Why I Wake Early

Why I Wake Early: New Poems - Mary Oliver

I've heard a great number of Mary Oliver's poems throughout my years in creative writing programs. I have never heard one I didn't not love. I was enthusiastic to finally read a complete volume of her work and I picked Why I Wake Early for no reason whatsoever. It was just the first to grab my attention.

I didn't love this collection the way I'd hope I would. There are several possible reasons for this. Perhaps this isn't Oliver's best collection. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. Or maybe Oliver's work is best when read aloud. There were many great moments in Why I Wake Early, but there were also several times when I felt the imagery was cloying. At times I felt like I was reading a collection of Ruth Bell Graham, a poet who wrote some beautiful and inspiring poems, but who isn't particularly known for her innovative verse. And so I feel like I missed something. I blame myself. Nevertheless, Oliver's poetry was beautiful and certainly full of skill. I just didn't connect fully. Because I loved everything I'd heard before this and because I'm sure it was all my fault I didn't relate, I'm compromising on my rating and promising that I'll give Oliver another try someday in the near future.