Review: Dog Songs

Dog Songs
Dog Songs, poems by Mary Oliver.

I’ve always enjoyed Mary Oliver’s poetry, and I’ve featured two of her dog-related poems on this blog. She consistently finds great joy in watching her dogs experience the world, and I love the reminder in her poems to slow down and simply observe your dog.

I was excited, then, when I heard some months ago that Oliver was coming out with a collection of poems that were just about dogs, hence, Dog Songs.

This is a sweet collection of poems about Oliver’s dogs, which are joined by these lovely line illustrations (example on the cover). I was, naturally, interested to see that one of her dogs (not sure which one) appeared to have been a German shepherd. Oliver has also had shy hounds and little curly-haired mixes.

I’ll admit that I was expecting more “hard” poetry than this collection offered. The poems are very simple, and sometimes I found the sentiments rather predictable — but maybe that’s just because I, more than the average reader (but not you, because you’re willingly reading a dog blog!), live in a world that’s already awash with thoughts about dogs.

But Oliver is perceptive about the inherent nature of dogs. As in this thought, upon watching her dog scarf down his food:

Be prepared. A dog is adorable and noble. A dog is a true and loving friend. A dog is also a hedonist.

This poem, “Luke,” (paired with a drawing of a German shepherd) is representative of Oliver’s habit of enjoying dogs enjoy the world:

By Mary Oliver

I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk,
with its fragrance

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen,

and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious,
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.

In short, Dog Songs is a sweet, enjoyable little volume, and it’d make a great gift for any dog lover.

Disclosure: I was NOT provided with a review copy of this book; I got it myself from the public library! I just like to write about dog books that I read.