"Joy is not made to be a crumb," writes Mary Oliver, and certainly joy abounds in her new book of poetry and prose poems. Swan, her twentieth volume, shows us that, though we may be "made out of the dust of stars," we are of the world she captures here so vividly: the acorn that hides within it an entire tree; the wings of the swan like the stretching light of the river; the frogs singing in the shallows; the mockingbird dancing in air. Swan is Oliver's tribute to "the mortal way" of desiring and living in the world, to which the poet is renowned for having always been "totally loyal."
As the Los Angeles Times noted, innumerable readers go to Oliver's poetry "for solace, regeneration and inspiration." Few poets express the immense complexities of human experience as skillfully, or capture so memorably the smallest nuances. Speaking, for example, of stones, she writes, "the little ones you can / hold in your hands, their heartbeats / so secret, so hidden it may take years / before, finally, you hear them." It is no wonder Oliver ranks, according to the Weekly Standard, "among the finest poets the English language has ever produced."