Death of Poet Mary Oliver

I met the poet Mary Oiiver several years ago, at the College of St. Elizabeth, my undergraduate institution. In honor of a revered English professor, Sister Alice Lubin, I gave a substantial gift to bring poets and writers to campus. Sister Alice was still alive then; she got to meet and interact with many, including Oliver. A priority was not just the public reading, which brought many local people to the College, but a master class for students. Oliver excelled in both.

Oliver had a longtime partner, Mary Malone Cook, and wrote a poem about their relationship and the capacity for surprise, even in someone we know well. I used that poem in a talk I gave about Jerry’s death, saying that one thread of loss of a beloved spouse or partner is the loss of the capacity to be newly surprised. My audience found it an interesting point.

Oliver died on January 17 at the age of 83. Her death is a loss.

4 thoughts on “Death of Poet Mary Oliver

  1. In her obituaries and tributes, this was often quoted: “When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement.” Was this both literal and figurative, and is it from the same poem as your quote?

  2. Phyllis: Yes, this is the Mary Oliver about whom I was writing. I remember the image of being amazed by her longtime partner, but not the actual poem. But what you write sounds very much like the Mary Oliver I knew.

  3. Here are a few more of people’s favorites, posted on Facebook and elsewhere when she died.
    “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Hillary Clinton)
    “It doesn’t have to be blue iris… can be weeds in a vacant lot.”
    “Maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us.”

  4. for Phyllis: Thanks for the Mary Oliver memorable lines. Her poetry was very accessible, which is part of what made her so widely read.

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