Mary Oliver Passes Away – Poetry News January 21st

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with the sad news that Mary Oliver the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet has died at the age of 83.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Dies at Age 83

Mary Oliver, a celebrated American Pulitzer Prize-winner for poetry has passed away at the age of 83. Oliver died on Thursday last week in her home in Florida. She had been struggling with lymphoma cancer.

She was the author of over 15 collections of poetry and essays, in which she wrote pieces that were direct and brief and spoke of her love of the outdoor life and nature and of her disdain for human crimes such as despoilment. “Perfect” was her favourite adjective, she rarely used it to describe people, instead reserving it for those things she loved the most. Nature was her inspiration – owls, butterflies, the changing seasons, as well as the sun, the stars and the moon.

Walt Whitman was her hero. Like him, Oliver didn’t just want to observe nature; she wanted to become one with it.

In 1984, Mary Oliver was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for “American Primitive”. She received a
in 1992.
was awarded to the poet in 1998.

She had a wide and varied fan base that included the wives of two former US presidents; Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, and a number of her fellow poets including Rita Dove, the former US poet laureate and Stanley Kunitz.

Oliver wrote numerous books including
and her most recent work which was published in 2017 – an anthology titled Devotions.

Raised in Maple Hills Heights, suburban Cleveland Oliver used poetry as an escape. As a child she coped with her somewhat “dysfunctional” family life by writing poetry and attempting to build huts in the woods nearby. The poet Edna St Vincent Millay laid amongst her early influences and when she was in secondary school, Mary Oliver decided to write to the sister of the late poet asking if she would be able to visit Austerlitz, the poet’s former home. Millay’s sister agrees and it was here that Oliver spent several years organising the deceased poet’s papers.

It was during her time at Austerlitz that Oliver encountered Molly Malone Cook – a photographer. She was later to write about the encounter
The two became partners and were together until 2005 when Cook passed away. Much of Oliver’s poetry is dedicated to and inspired by to Cook.

Here we reproduce a part of the poem “When Death Comes” in which Oliver who often wrote about mortality, hoped that when her life came to an end, she would be able to look back as a

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