Upstream by Mary Oliver
Selected Essays


7 Critic Reviews

Hold “Upstream” in your hands, and you hold a miracle of ravishing imagery and startling revelation.
-Star Tribune


One of O, The Oprah Magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year! 

The New York Times bestselling collection of essays from beloved poet, Mary Oliver.
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” 

So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood “friend” Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, “a place to enter, and in which to feel,” and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” 
Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.

About Mary Oliver

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Born in a small town in Ohio, MARY O LIVER published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of twenty-eight. Over the course of her long career, she has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Bennington College, where she held the Catherine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. Oliver currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Published October 11, 2016 by Penguin Press. 192 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Outdoors, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
Peak Rank on Nov 27 2016
Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Upstream
All: 7 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 0


on Aug 09 2016

Part paean to nature and part meditation on the writing life, this elegant and simply written book is a neo-Romantic celebration of life and the pursuit of art that is sure to enchant Oliver’s many admirers. A lyrical, tender essay collection.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Nov 23 2016

The natural world pictured here is richly various, though Oliver seems most drawn to waterways...The message of her book for its readers is a simple and profound one: open your eyes.

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Star Tribune

Reviewed by Hamilton Cain on Oct 07 2016

Hold “Upstream” in your hands, and you hold a miracle of ravishing imagery and startling revelation.

Read Full Review of Upstream: Selected Essays | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Danny Heitman on Oct 19 2016

“Upstream” is a testament to a lifetime of paying attention, and an invitation to readers to do the same.

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Spirituality & Practice

Reviewed by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on Nov 25 2016

Along with her dependable ability to wax poetic about the natural world, nature, Oliver writes beautifully on the nature of love, death, time, power, and a place of one's own.

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Above average
Reviewed by Alden Mudge on Oct 01 2016

Gathered together here, these prose works provide an interior roadmap to her development as one of America’s most accomplished—and most popular—poets of nature and transcendence.

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Reviewed by Molly Quinton on Nov 29 2016

The magic of her work is its deceptive simplicity. Her poems aren’t necessarily difficult to read, and therefore generally more accessible. Upon further scrutiny, however, the work reveals deeper themes.

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