Poetry News

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Mary Oliver Dies at 83

By Harriet Staff
Image of Mary Oliver with her dog.

This morning we learned that beloved poet Mary Oliver passed away at the age of 83. At the Washington Post, Hillel Italie explains, "Bill Reichblum, Oliver’s literary executor, says she died Thursday at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. The case of death was lymphoma." From there: 

Author of more than 15 poetry and essay collections, Oliver wrote brief, direct pieces that sang of her worship of the outdoors and disdain for greed, despoilment and other human crimes. One of her favorite adjectives was “perfect,” and rarely did she apply it to people. Her muses were owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the stars.

“In my outward appearance and life habits I hardly change — there’s never been a day that my friends haven’t been able to say, and at a distance, ‘There’s Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook,’” Oliver wrote in “Long Life,” a book of essays published in 2004.

“But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel.”

Like her hero Walt Whitman, whom she would call the brother she never had, Oliver didn’t only observe mushrooms growing in a rainstorm or an owl calling from a black branch; she longed to know and become one with what she saw. She might be awed by the singing of goldfinches or, as in the poem “White Flowers,” overcome by a long nap in a field.

Learn more at the Washington Post. Oliver contributed to Poetry magazine over the course of three decades. Head here to read a poem and celebrate her life.

Originally Published: January 17th, 2019