Get ready to feel the feelings and break out the tissues — they are coming to get you. In “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver, readers enter into the tail wagging, drooling table scrap eating world of dogs. Here, we revisit every beginning, middle, and end to a dog’s life while undergoing a series of sentiments that leave us forever embracing the unconditional love of our furry companions.
In the compilation, Oliver gives readers 35 poems and one essay on the brilliance of dogs. Through Oliver, dogs are given the opportunity to show a snapshot of their lives. While Oliver weaves her memories throughout, each of the poems is told from a dog’s perspective. For example, in “Every Dog’s Story,” Oliver depicts a dog’s retelling of a nightmare: “But sometimes dreams are dark and wild and creepy / and I wake and am afraid, though I don’t know why. / But I’m no longer sleepy / and too slowly the hours go by. / So I climb on the bed where the light of the moon / is shining on your face / and I know it will be morning soon. / Everybody needs a safe place.” While the poem at first seems menacing, the dog wakes to his owner still sound asleep, comforted that she never left his side.
Within the work, readers can observe illustrations from fine artist John Burgoyne, who expertly portrays dogs that Oliver has come to know throughout the years — Bazougey, Bear, Benny, Henry, Luke, Percy, Ricky, and Sammy. All of the characters are poised and thoughtful as they present what seems to be a longing beyond the page — the story they have to tell.
There are a variety of emotions within this book — humor with “Conversations,” sadness with “Luke’s Junkyard Song” and “Percy,” happiness with “The Poetry Teacher,” and of course a mixture with “Her Grave” and “Bazougey.” It is no wonder that Oliver, who won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, renders readers astonished with her last piece, an essay entitled “Dog Talk.”
“Dog Songs” is a collection of great compassion and loyalty, not only of the dogs, but also of Oliver to her beloved companions. She completes the work as humbly as she began, her author photo saying it all. Look closely, and behind the black and white fluff you will find Oliver, a charming smile and a look of absolute happiness. After all, a book is never without an author and an author is never without a muse.
‘Dog Songs’ by Mary Oliver Rating: W W W W V