Mary Oliver, the poet whose odes to nature and animals made her one of the favorites of the modern age and won her a Pulitzer Prize, has died. She was 83 and passed at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida from lymphoma, her literary executor said.
Fans from Hillary Clinton to director Ava Duvernay and pop songstress Madonna mourned Oliver’s death with online tributes.
Oliver authored more than 15 poetry and essay collections, focused on her affection for the outdoors and disdain for greed and despoilment. She wrote of owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changing seasons and the stars. She tried to merge her mind with her subjects in such books as White Pine, West Wind and the anthology Devotions.
She won the Pulitzer in 1984 for American Primitive and the National Book Award in 1992 for New and Selected Poems. She received the Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement in 1998.
Born in Maple Heights in suburban Cleveland, Oliver was influenced early by Edna St. Vincent Millay. While in high school, she wrote to the late poet’s sister, Norma, asking if she could visit Millay’s house in Austerlitz, New York. Norma Millay agreed and Oliver spent several years there, organizing Edna St. Vincent Millay’s papers.
While in Austerlitz, she met photographer Molly Malone Cook and the two remained partners until Cook’s death in 2005. Much of Oliver’s work was dedicated to Cook.
Oliver studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College, but never graduated. However, she taught at Case Western University and Bennington College, among other schools.