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Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) was the author of more than fifteen collections of poetry, including Blue Horses (Penguin, 2014); New and Selected Poems, Volume One (Beacon, 1992), which won the National Book Award; House of Light (Beacon, 1990), which won the Christopher Award and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award; and American Primitive (Little, Brown, 1983), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her honors include an American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, a Lannan Literary Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.



White Pine

Winter 1995 | Poetry

      The sun rises late in this Southern county. And, since the first thing I do when I wake up is go out into the world, I walk here along a dark road. There are many trees. Also, shrubs and vines—sumac, the ivies, honeysuckle.


Winter 1995 | Poetry

        There isn't anything in this world but mad love. Not in this world. No tame love, calm love, mild love, no so-so love. And of course, no reasonable love. There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier. But, who wants easier?

White Night

Winter 1982 | Poetry

All night
 I float
   in the shallow ponds
    while the moon wanders

 bone white,
   among the milky stems.


Spring 2000 | Poetry

When death carts me off to the bottomlands, when I begin the long work of rising—

Death, whoever and whatever you are, tallest king of
tall kings, grant me these wishes: unstring my bones;
let me be not one thing but all things, and wondrously
scattered; shake me free from my name. Let the wind, and
the wildflowers, and the catbird never know it.

Three Prose Poems

Spring 1999 | Poetry

Oh, yesterday, that one, we all cry out. Oh, that one! How rich and possible everything was! How ripe, ready, lavish, and filled with excitement—how hopeful we were on those summer days, under the clean, white racing clouds.

A Bitterness

Summer 1991 | Poetry

I believe you did not have a happy life.
I believe you were cheated.
I believe your best friends were loneliness and misery,
I believe your busiest enemies were anger and depression.


In spring the blue azures bow down
at the edges of shallow puddles
to drink the black rainwater.
Then they rise and float away into the fields.

The Pinewoods

Summer 1991 | Poetry

This morning
   two deer
      in the pinewoods,
         in the five a.m. mist,

in a silky agitation,
   went leaping
      down into the shadows

A Death

Winter 1984 | Poetry

the cheerful birds
still woke me—bands
of crows blaring,

and the darling sparrows
chirping for their lives.
Somebody had died.

The River

Winter 1984 | Poetry

Just because I was born
precisely here or there,
in some cold city or other,
don't think I don't remember
how I came along like a grain
carried by the flood—