Mary Oliver

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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: June 17, 2024

Mary Oliver

Introduction of Mary Oliver (1935–2019) :

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) was a profoundly influential American poet whose work resonates with themes of nature, spirituality, and the profound beauty found in the everyday. Over the course of her prolific career spanning several decades, Oliver garnered numerous accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for her collection “American Primitive.” Her poetry is celebrated for its clarity, accessibility, and deep reverence for the natural world, often drawing inspiration from her observations of flora and fauna in the New England landscapes she called home. Oliver’s lyrical verse, characterized by its meditative and contemplative quality, invites readers to reconnect with the wonders of nature and to contemplate the mysteries of existence with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Famous Poems By Mary Oliver

1. The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper? …….

2. Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. ……

3. When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse …..

4. The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you …..

5. The sun

Have you ever seen
in your life …..

Mary Oliver Biography

Early Life and Education

Mary Oliver was born on September 10, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio. Growing up in a semi-rural suburb, she found solace in the natural world, which would later become a central theme in her poetry. Oliver attended Ohio State University and Vassar College but did not graduate from either institution. Instead, she chose to immerse herself in poetry and the natural landscapes that inspired her work.

Career and Achievements

Mary Oliver published her first collection, No Voyage and Other Poems, in 1963. Over the years, she became one of America’s best-loved poets, renowned for her clear, direct language and deep connection to nature. Her collection American Primitive won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984, and she received the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems in 1992.

Personal Life

Mary Oliver lived much of her life in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she continued to draw inspiration from the coastal landscape. She had a long-term partnership with photographer Molly Malone Cook, who was also her literary agent and the subject of some of her later work.


Mary Oliver passed away on January 17, 2019, leaving behind a legacy of profound and poignant poetry that continues to inspire readers around the world. Her work encourages a deep appreciation for the natural world and a contemplative approach to life’s fundamental questions.

Mary Oliver Books

Mary Oliver, a celebrated poet known for her deep connection to nature and insightful reflections on life, authored numerous books throughout her career. Some of her most notable works include American Primitive, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984, and New and Selected Poems, which earned the National Book Award in 1992. Other significant collections include House of Light, A Thousand Mornings, and Felicity. Oliver’s writings, characterized by their clear language and vivid imagery, continue to inspire readers to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and ponder the deeper aspects of existence.

List of Mary Oliver’s Notable Books:

  1. No Voyage and Other Poems (1963)
  2. American Primitive (1983)
  3. House of Light (1990)
  4. New and Selected Poems (1992)
  5. The Leaf and the Cloud (2000)

Mary Oliver Poems about Life

Mary Oliver’s poems about life beautifully capture the essence of existence, reflecting on the simple yet profound moments that make up our days. Her poem “The Summer Day” asks the reader, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This line encourages us to contemplate the fleeting nature of time and the importance of living fully and intentionally. Oliver’s clear, evocative language and vivid imagery invite us to pause and appreciate the small wonders around us, such as a grasshopper on a summer day or the intricate patterns of a leaf.

Another notable poem, “When Death Comes,” explores the inevitable end of life and the desire to embrace every moment. Oliver writes about living with curiosity and passion, wanting to step through life’s door “full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?” Her reflections remind us to live with a sense of wonder and to approach each day with an open heart. Oliver’s poetry serves as a gentle guide, urging us to find meaning and joy in our daily lives and to embrace the world with gratitude and awe.

Did Mary Oliver ever get married?

Mary Oliver never got married, but she had a long-term partnership with Molly Malone Cook, a photographer who was also her literary agent. Their relationship, spanning over four decades, was a significant and cherished part of Oliver’s life. Cook’s influence and support were deeply intertwined with Oliver’s work and personal happiness, making her a central figure in the poet’s life and career.

How did Mary Oliver Die

Mary Oliver passed away on January 17, 2019, at the age of 83, in her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. The cause of death was lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Despite her battle with the illness, Oliver’s work continued to inspire and resonate with readers worldwide, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of poetry.

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