Arguably America’s most beloved poet, Mary Oliver, who died in 2019, was a poet with an extraordinary ability to capture the natural world as well as a keen sense of what it means to live on the cusp of things, her writing always full of possibility, always looking and seeking for wonder. ‘With my pencil,’ said, ‘I've travelled to the moon and back. Probably a few times.’
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, much of Oliver’s work was influenced by the environment of her adopted home of Massachusetts and the landscape of Cape Cod. Her talent was recognised early and during her lifetime she won a host of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for her collection American Primitive, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement.
Her works published in the UK include Blue Horses, A Thousand Mornings, Felicity and two volumes of New and Selected Poems.
Her work remains some of the most quoted of contemporary verse, resonating with readers in part because of its bravery in facing – with determination, sadness and defiant joy – the most difficult aspects of being alive. ‘She confronts… steadily,’ the American critic Alicia Ostriker comments, ‘what she cannot change.’