Mary Oliver was one of our greatest and most beloved poets. She is often quoted by people across ages and backgrounds — and it’s fitting, since she described poetry as a sacred community ritual. “When you write a poem, you write it for anybody and everybody,” she said. Mary died on January 17, 2019, at the age of 83. She was a prolific and decorated poet, whose honors included the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In this 2015 conversation — one of the rare interviews she granted during her lifetime — she discussed the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.
Mary Oliver published over 25 books of poetry and prose, including Dream Work, A Thousand Mornings, and A Poetry Handbook. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for her book American Primitive. Her final work, Devotions, is a curated collection of poetry from her more than 50-year career.
This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Mary Oliver — Listening to the World.” Find more at onbeing.org.
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