Dog Songs is a collection of new and favorite poems by esteemed, popular poet Mary Oliver. The 35 poems plus one longer prose-poem-essay that cap off this slender volume, revolve around dogs and all they mean personally to Oliver, while elevating to more universal themes of the human-canine bond and how the companionship of dogs anchors people to the natural, "heaven of earth" world.
Pen and ink drawings by illustrator John Burgoyne mirror the unadorned language that makes Oliver's poetry both intriguing and accessible. Each poem evokes poignant, thoughtful observations about the dogs that have enriched Oliver's life and work. Often in just a few, carefully chosen phrases, simple dog pleasures such as daily walks, frolicking in the grass, smelling flowers, chasing mice, darting ahead and going off leash depict a dog's ability to live joyfully in the moment without the anxieties of the past or the future. These vivid metaphors inspire human counterparts to also seek a more vibrant richness of life.
Oliver's poems about her beloved dog Percy—named after Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English Romantic poet—are succinct and clever. Percy's evolution is creatively explored with insight, compassion and humor as he mischievously eats books, has a rendezvous before he's neutered and even keeps the author company while she does her income taxes. "I am trying to live...the examined life. But there are days I wish there was less in my head to examine," writes the poet. Dogs, in their carefree, unconditional friendship and adoration, offer Oliver—and readers—a hopeful respite.
Penguin Press HC, $26.95 hardcover, 97801594204784 , 144 pp
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (10/22/13), click HERE