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Poetry scholar Christine Holland, in her review of Mary Oliver’s work, reflects on the poet’s ability to convey the ecstatic engagement she feels with nature:”The attentive reader of her poems may even experience something of the same feeling of transcendent union with the natural world, which she achieves by attending closely enough to enter imaginatively into it. Each of Oliver’s poems reiterates the experience of “bending forward” to listen, of being dazzled and reflective. The reader is invited to hear and reflect along with the speaker, to feel the dazzlement; and every time the experience is different, as particular as the individual birds being observed.”

For your first major paper, please read all of the poems Red Bird. As you read, mark specific lines of verse that reflect Oliver’s “transcendent union with the natural world.” Search for clues by finding examples of figurative speech:Personification




Remember that Mary Oliver is a free verse poet, so she is not confined to any traditional or mathematical meter/line breaks/rhyme. Pay attention to her line lengths, word choices, stanza breaks, and how she ends each line. Please review our Intro to Poetry handout for the definitions of figurative speech.

For your 1000 word written analysis, illustrate Oliver’s “transcendence and union with nature” by quoting lines from at least five of her poems. When you type the line of verse into your analysis, please note the poem’s title and page number.

Please include an introduction and conclusion. In your introduction, add a reference to the literary theory Eco-criticism and describe how it relates to Oliver’s themes. In your conclusion, I would like you to reflect on your own personal feelings/reactions to Red Bird.

Most of your analysis should be “analysis,” so keep the quotes to a minimum!!! Your grade will be based on the thoroughness of your analysis, the strength of your quotes/examples, and your thoughtfulness and openmindedness! You may write more than the 1000 word minimum, but please keep your analysis under 2,000 words! Good luck and enjoy!

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