Mary Oliver is the poet laureate of the self-help biz and the human potential movement. She has stripped down the poetry in Red Bird until it is nothing but a naked set of values: that the human spirit is indomitable, that the animal spirit is indomitable, that she loves birds very much, that she loves flowers very much, that even her dog loves flowers very much. As for herself—
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.
If we trust the landscape of her poems, Oliver lives in a vast nature preserve she polices like a docent, strolling from bush to bush, from beast to beast (I’m told the wildlife of Cape Cod have asked for a restraining order against her).