This impressive collection of poems is the winner of the Walt Whitman Award for 2005 sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, an open competition among American poets who have not yet published a book of poems. In the judge's citation, Mary Oliver stated "(O'Reilley's is) a style that celebrates . . . that mystery we call the soul. That part of us that is of another world, come perhaps to instruct us in this one."
The poet does not shy away from glimpses of our violent culture but mostly this collection is awash with wonder and respect for the variety of the natural world. In "Icon," O'Reilley notes that the deer "keep watch under my window." In "When I Imagine My Soul, she envisions a bear "shambling across tundra," and she notices the yearning of "Bees in Autumn."
There is an impressive attentiveness in all these poems. Our favorite is "Field Guide to North Shore Geology" where O'Reilley imagines stones "bragging about hot times in the magma / when they were molten and ran around." The poet also writes about going to church, a lost child, gawkers viewing a wild boy in his cage, an abandoned farmhouse, a Zen master's instructions, a Hasidic bride, and the animal presences inside her.