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UPSTREAM: A Book of Selected Essays ~Mary Oliver

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Mary Oliver beloved poet takes a look at the beauty of the natural world and offers the reader an opportunity to investigate the mysteries and bounties of the world and the world of literature.  UPSTREAM could be a series of lectures that as one reads takes you down the paths her feet have taken and dazzles the senses with the whole adventure.

UPSTREAM is prose with poetic license and glorious word descriptions, which allows the reader to understand life through the experience and to understand how Oliver’s life developed and her worldview was enhanced by the glories of earth and walking through.

UPSTREAM is a meditation on the books and experiences that allowed a child to grow and become; forcing a life to create on it’s own strength, knowledge and power.

“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 and intelligently, and to observe with passion.  Oliver positions not just herself upstream, but us as well, as she encourages us 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.” (Book Cover)

UPSTREAM is a memoir of the child to the learner, to the writer, to the poet, and to the teacher we so admire and study.

UPSTREAM is a book I purchased for my own library to read, contemplate and enjoy for many years to come.  I wanted to share it with you because it means so very much to me.

“Born in a small town in Ohio, Mary Oliver 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 Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching.  Oliver currently lives in Florida”   (Book Cover)

Mary Oliver Wikipedia
Mary Oliver Facebook
On Being Interview with Mary Oliver entitled “Listening to the World”

All the News I Need
Night Ringing
A Tale For The Time Being

On Reading a Memoir

Monday, March 25th, 2013

REVERE BEACH ELEGY: A memoir of Home and Beyond  By Roland Merullo was sent to me by publisher Peter at PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries because I saw that it was being offered up on Merullo’s newsletter for review by bloggers.   I made a request and within hours it was on my e-reader.  Thank you so much

This is an autobiography in 10 essays and is not a straight story line about birth to present; I really liked this view and the highlights of his life shared in this style and with this kind of choppy movement.  The Librarian/author Nancy Pearls  tells us on National Public Radio to read a memoir while keeping in mind that much of our living is boring – mundane routine and we need to remember that memoirs are at least 20% fiction to keep us interested and connected to the telling.

I also keep in mind that when it is an autobiographic writing, then the other members of a family or friends will have witnessed a different perspective of the events, story and ideas.  The author can choose to leave out details or arguments and has control over what is presented.  What I so enjoyed about this read was that Merullo had such fine analysis linked to his thoughts at the time of the event and to his hindsight acquired wisdom, so that, the context of the story was indicative of something shared in his novels and other writing, but also what he gleaned and how that provided creative vision to his creativity.

There is an unsurpassed element of kindness in this book.  The ability to share emotions and to use them is quite astute and surely should provide a model for how the rest of us might strive.  The emotions are not ignored rather they are played out with fine tuning so the reader can truly identify and try them on for practice and future reference.   One can witness how this tuning is played out in BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA and LUNCH WITH BUDDHA where the feelings just seamlessly touch you – and one is left to say “YES” that is just how it feels to me.

Revere is the name of the city where Merullo lived and grew – The title was mistakenly read by me as a Dream or Thought process at first or even Paul Revere’s famous ride. I did not connect Beach to the name until I started reading and then I had to look it up on the map and laugh at myself for my mistake!  I so enjoyed all the closeness of family and the connections, especially since that was not part of my life.

I wondered again why so many Catholic kids grow up and embrace Buddhism?  Is it just because of all the Rock Stars who went to India or found a guru?  In this case, I think it is because it better represents the inner strength of the author and how he manifests his spirit; lots of Italian energy and food included in the present tense.

One of the essays is about how he, his wife, and infant daughter, just gathered up his mother and took her to Italy to live for a short period of time.  Not just a tourist visit, but a real move in and connect experience.  He knew how to achieve that from his work in Russia and his Peace Corp experiences.

I want to be more myself, my core self, when I read Merullo’s stories.  They inspire me not to imitate his experiences but to look to more meaningful experiences to undertake and enjoy.  All my analysis of living going on inside my head has a purpose and it is reassuring that my ability to integrate ideas and feelings is shared by someone else.  Roland Merullo has found a way to express them and let them fly free and not just ruminate within the psyche.

When I read a memoir, I work at being kind and non-judgmental.  I seek to find the positive and the opportunity which came from this telling.  This writer has shared the details and formed from this experience and now I can benefit from knowing and understanding. I do not need to try and repeat.  The pleasure is mine in the reading.

Have you ever thought of sharing a memoir of your life experiences?  Would you want to publish them? Would you stick with fiction?

I did receive a copy of this book from PFP Publishing/First AJAR Contemporaries.

If you purchase anything from AMAZON or POWELL’S  from this sight I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcome.

Related Reading:
Breakfast With Buddha
Lunch With Buddha
The Paper Garden


Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I just could not wait to read Lots of Candles and Plenty of Cake and pre-ordered it for my KINDLE. Anna Quindlen is an author that I enjoy reading very much although when she was doing her parenting columns I was still reading Erma Bombeck.

This book has a number of humorous interludes but Lots of Candles and Plenty Cake is more about embracing turning 60 and finding lots to love about living.  There is an element of memoir to this book of essays also.

“Get yourself a personal trainer.”

Her hindsight about the early parenting years and how generations have survived, coped and figured it out is a rather astute analysis of how we made it through the tough times and the loneliness and yet truly enjoyed our choices and taking on those tasks.   Being there for our children, working and trying desperately to not lose the sense of self that made us who we are section was full of wonderful and creative examples of how the women of a certain age coped with the expectations of doing it all.

“ …we didn’t want to admit that trying to balance a couple of challenging full-time jobs was kind of a stretch. We were all a little crazy and a little sad and a little confused.  And we all thought it was just us.  That’s what makes life so hard for women, that instead of thinking that this is the way things are, we always think it’s the way we are.”

Lots of Candles and Plenty of Cake does not skip over the worries about heath and finances and how to plan for the unknown.  I just felt a sense of release when Quindlen discussed the Resume Gap because I truly thought I was rather alone in this problem; having spent too much time out of the even half time work force/career to be taken seriously by anyone.   It was a bit hit and run because that is not the author’s experience and yet it was not ignored.

“The most liberated generation of women in American history, raised on the notion that they could be much more than caregivers, became caregivers cubed.”

Quindlen definitely hits the mark when she talks about health and working at it while enjoying just who you are.  After the discussion of the foot pain, new glasses, and blood pressure medications none of the women in her circle would change who they are now and consider this stage the best they have experienced.  There were no votes for do-overs even though they now understood parenting and working and balance – oh yes, that advice we are always trying to share!

“They can’t hear it because it’s in a different language, a language we learn over time, the language of experience cut with failure, triumph, and tedium.”

I think if I write any more, I will need to copy and post this entire book.  I cannot recommend it highly enough and I hope every woman I know will find themselves with a copy in hand and a smile on their face.  I am going to read it again right away – it gave me so much pleasure and some fresh wisdom to just enjoy.

No one paid for this review and I did not receive a copy of this book; I purchased it for my library.

Anna Quindlen’s web page

Do you have a book of wisdom that just delights you and speaks to you like this group of essays spoke to me?  Please share it with all the readers in the comments section. Thank you

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s   I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you

Related Reading:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Paper Garden
Walter’s Muse
The Love Ceiling