Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
There is a lot to be celebrated in iconic American poet Mary Oliver's writing. Her style combines a frenzy of details, lyrically drawn analyses, and impossibly precise revelations, creating in both poetry and prose a distinctive and vital voice in contemporary American literature.
The essays in Upstream largely cover topics ranging nature to natural evil to various American writers. While these topics are undoubtedly and respectively fascinating, the essays themselves are made all the more remarkable for the contemplative lines that are blurred between subjects. The deeply personal flourishes here, and Oliver's anecdotes underscore her numinous amazement and practical ruminations when it comes to life - not just human life, but all life.
Oliver's writing is eminently enjoyable and perfectly quotable, almost aphoristic, in a manner not unlike the Transcendentalist writers she profiles and examines. With skillfully deployed experimentation, Oliver provides a detailed, poetic taxonomy of the natural world and insight into some of America's most revered writers (as well as the act of writing itself). The essays here are luminous, nearly mystical in their emotional resonance, but also filled with shocking clarity and deep revelation. Upstream provides us with exactly what we need to hear about life, death, literature, and the natural world - even if we didn't know it yet.