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Mary Oliver Portrait

Born in Maple Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland, Mary Oliver attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College. She lived for many years in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In addition to numerous volumes of poetry and prose poetry, she has written a book on prosody (A Poetry Handbook) as well as Blue Pastures, a collection of essays. She has taught at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Duke University, and Bennington College. The social world appears infrequently in Oliver's poetry, for she is above all a poet of nature. In her capacity for exquisitely precise description and in her fascination with nature's indifferent, animate life, she recalls Roethke's early work. Her sense of awe and revelation, however, more fully echoes Hopkins and Jeffers. At moments when nature's sheer difference produces a sense of self-knowledge, a kind of ecstasy arises that is her special signature.