Poet Feature: Mary Oliver
Tuesday, April 18th
As part of National Poetry Month, we're celebrating by featuring a wide variety of poets! Today's featured writer is Mary Oliver.
Born in 1935, Oliver took early inspiration from the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. As a teenager, she lived briefly in the late Millay's house, helping Edna's sister Norma to organize the poet's papers. Though she attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College, Oliver left before receiving a degree from either institution and focused on her writing. Her poetry is deceptively simple, free of artifice and frequently drawing on imagery of the natural world and of the interplay between humanity and nature.
Her first collection of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, was released in 1963, and Oliver rapidly gained critical acclaim. Her fifth collection, American Primitive, won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, and her 1992 collection, New and Selected Poems, won the National Book Award. She has been compared to Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, and even William Blake. Critic Richard Tillinghast noted that "her familiarity with the natural world has an uncomplicated, nineteenth-century feeling.” Though best known for poems that paint a vivid picture of the natural world, Oliver doesn't shy away from portraying another facet of nature: human nature. Her later works have begun to explore the inner landscape of humanity with the same keen eye as the outside world.
Oliver lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her most recent book of poetry is Felicity.