Mary Oliver

Beloved Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver Dies at 83

Literary Circle

Today 17th January 2019 marked the death of beloved American poet Mary Oliver. She was 83 years old when she died.

The American writer who drew her inspiration mostly from nature and from long walks in the countryside died of lymphoma. Mary Oliver, during her lifetime, won notable awards including the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and the National Book Award in 1992. In 2007, The New York Times described Mary Oliver as “far and away, the country’s bestselling poet”.

Although she was such a high profile poet, critics consistently slammed her work, calling it earnest at best. But she wasn’t having any of it. In 2012, she told NPR that “poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy.”

In a successful career spanning over 15 poetry and essay collections, Mary Oliver wrote direct poems that explored her disdain for greed and alluded to her love for the outdoors. If you are familiar with her work, you will notice her favourite description was the word “perfect”. Her poems were inspired by life, nature, wildlife, the sun, stars, and seasonal changes.

She once said, “if I have any lasting worth, it will be because I have tried to make people remember what the Earth is meant to look like,” in an interview with Maria Shriver.

To celebrate her death, we muse over an excerpt of her poem “The Summer Day,” published in 1992:

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?”

Her death is a big loss to the literary community and she would be sorely missed. We pray her beautiful soul rests in eternal peace. ❤

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