Born in a small town in Ohio, Mary Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28. Over the course of her long career, she received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Bennington College, where she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. She died in 2019.
“It has always seemed, across her 15 books of poetry, five of prose and several essays and chapbooks, that Mary Oliver might leave us at any minute. Even a 1984 Pulitzer Prize couldn’t pin her to the ground. She’d change quietly into a heron or a bear and fly or walk off forever. Her poems contain windows, doors, transformations, hints on how to escape the body; there’s the ‘glamour of death’ and the ‘life after the earth-life’…The new poems teem with creation: ravens, bees, hawks, box turtles, bears. The landscape is Thoreauvian: ponds, marsh, grass and cattails; New England’s ‘salt brightness’; and fields in ‘pale twilight.’ The poems from Why I Wake Early (2004) are, in contrast, full of white things and ‘untrimmable light’; from Owls and Other Fantasies (2003), of watery sounds, singing, rain; from West Wind (1997), of starry distances and traveling.”—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review
“In a region that has produced most of the nation’s poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1984, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world. Her “Wild Geese” has become so popular it now graces posters in dorm rooms across the land. But don’t hold that against her. Read almost anything in New and Selected Poems. She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.”—Renée Loth, Boston Globe
“Oliver’s poems are thoroughly convincing—as genuine, moving, and implausible as the first caressing breeze of spring.”—New York Times Book Review