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Pulitzer Prize–Winning Poet Mary Oliver Has Died At 83

Celebrated for her nature-inspired poems, Oliver was named “the country’s best-selling poet.”

Posted on January 17, 2019, at 1:20 p.m. ET

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Celebrated American poet Mary Oliver, whose nature-inspired works were awarded both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, has died at age 83. Her literary executor Bill Reichblum told the press that she died of lymphoma at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida.

Oliver penned more than 30 poetry and essay collections and was described by the New York Times as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet,” despite an often lukewarm reaction from critics.

As a poet, Oliver explored the connections between nature, animal life, and the divine. In a 2013 profile, the New York Times described her as “the kind of old-fashioned poet who walks the woods most days, accompanied by dog and notepad.”

Throughout her career, Oliver worked to make sure her poetry was accessible to all readers. “Poetry, to be understood, must be clear,” she told NPR in a 2012 interview. “It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary should not be in the poem.”

Although she published her first poetry book, No Voyage and Other Poems, in 1968, when Oliver won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection American Primitive in 1984, she was relatively unknown. “After I won the Pulitzer, everyone was saying, ‘Who is Mary Oliver?’ I’d already written my fifth book, and I don’t think I’d ever given a reading. I was washing the dishes when the phone rang,” she said in a 2011 interview with O Magazine.

In 1992, her collection New and Selected Poems, Volume One won the National Book Award.

Oliver lived with her partner, photographer Molly Malone Cook, for 40 years, until Cook’s death in 2005.

CORRECTION

The title of Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Volume One was misstated in an earlier version of this post.

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