“People travel to keep from crying in place.” — Mary Oliver

In this episode of “Literary Arts: The Archive Project”, we remember Mary Oliver who died earlier this month (January 17, 2019). We listen back as she reads poems from several of her collections, focusing on brief images of the natural world that she believes people need to attend. These poems include “Messenger,” “Thirst,” “Percy 1,” “The Swan,” “Beans,” “Swimming with Otter,” “Wild Geese,” “Percy 2,” “There you were and it was like spring,” and “The Sun.” Between poems, Oliver shares details about her personal life, including her time as a teacher and her time spent observing the world with the help of her partner, photographer Mary Cook.


A notoriously private person, Mary Oliver has been described by The New York Times as “far and away America’s best-selling poet,” and wrote more than 30 collections of poetry and nonfiction. Her accolades include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a Lannan Literary Award. While she never formally completed a degree, Oliver received honorary doctorates from four institutions, including Dartmouth College and Tufts University. As a teenager, Oliver lived briefly in the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, where she helped Millay’s family sort through the papers the poet left behind. In her review of Oliver’s poetry, Maxine Kumin noted that Oliver “stands quite comfortably on the margins of things, on the line between earth and sky, the thin membrane that separates human from what we loosely call animal,” acting as an “indefatigable guide to the natural world, particularly to its lesser-known aspects.” Oliver lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, for roughly 40 years with her partner, photographer Mary Cook, and the location served as the inspiration for much of her work.

Mary Oliver died January 17, 2019.

“My work is loving the world.”
- Mary Oliver