American Poet Mary Oliver Dies at 83
American poet Mary Oliver has died. She died at 83 at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. Her death was confirmed by her literary executor, Bill Reichblum.
Author of over 20 books of poetry, essays, her fascination with words began from childhood. Asked in an interview in 1994 if poems were read to her as a child, Mary Oliver said: “…what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other—the world of the imagination—into which one could go, and stay. And then, as we do, I wanted to make a poem. I was a serious thirteen-year-old and wanted to write. But I don’t think precocious, just stubborn. I did a lot of other things, too.”
She would attend Ohio State University and Vassar College, but leave without degrees. Mary Oliver would spend the rest of her life writing poetry. She said, “I got saved by poetry. And I got saved by the beauty of the world.”
Her first poetry collection, No Voyage, and Other Poems, was published in 1963 in London. She was twenty-eight at the time. She would win awards, honors, distinctions, and teach poetry in colleges and universities across the US. Among her numerous awards are: the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, the 1992 National Book Award, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement, Guggenheim Fellowship. She became the Catherine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching in 1996 at Bennington College until 2001.
Mary Oliver also received honorary doctoral degrees from the Art Institute of Boston, Darmouth College, Tufts University, Marquette University.
Among her numerous quotes is the famous question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Answering the question herself, she said: “What I have done is learn to love and learn to be loved. And that didn’t come easy. And I learned to consider my life an amazing gift. Those are the things.”
In her collection of essays, Upstream, she noted that: “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”