Oliver, Mary

Oliver, Mary, 1935–2019, American poet, b. Cleveland, Ohio, studied Ohio State Univ., Vassar. She published her first collection of poems, No Voyage and Other Poems, in 1963. She was a keen observer of the beauty and cruelty of the natural world, which was often a source of her inspiration. Her everyday language, accessible imagery, sense of spirituality, and often brief verse helped to make her one of those rare contemporary poets whose work sold well. Her Ohio childhood comes into play in some of her poems, including those in The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems (1972); nature is evoked in American Primitive (1983, Pulitzer Prize), Dream Work (1986), and House of Light (1990). Her New and Selected Poems (1992), which includes the well-known “Summer Day,” won a National Book Award. Other works include West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems (1997), Why I Wake Early (2004), A Thousand Mornings (2012), Blue Horses (2014), Felicity (2015), and Devotions (2017). Oliver wrote about writing and reading poetry in A Poetry Handbook (1994) and Rules for the Dance (1998); her essays are collected in Long Life (2004), Upstream (2016), and other books.

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