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Mary Oliver's twelfth book of poetry, Red Bird comprises sixty-one poems, the most ever in a single volume of her work. Overflowing with her keen observation of the natural world and her gratitude for its gifts, for the many people she has loved in her seventy years, as well as for her disobedient dog Percy, Red Bird is a quintessential collection of Oliver's finest lyrics.
About the Author
A private person by nature, Mary Oliver (1935–2019) gave very few interviews over the years. Instead, she preferred to let her work speak for itself. And speak it has, for the past five decades, to countless readers. The New York Times recently acknowledged Mary Oliver as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” Born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems, originally printed in the UK by Dent Press, was reissued in the United States in 1965 by Houghton Mifflin. Oliver has since published twenty books of poetry and six books of prose. As a young woman, Oliver studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College, but took no degree. She lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state, companion to the poet’s sister Norma Millay. It was there, in the late ’50s, that she met photographer Molly Malone Cook. For more than forty years, Cook and Oliver made their home together, largely in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where they lived until Cook’s death in 2005. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has also received the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award; the Christopher Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light; the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems; a Lannan Foundation Literary Award; and the New England Booksellers Association Award for Literary Excellence. Oliver’s essays have appeared in Best American Essays 1996, 1998, 2001; the Anchor Essay Annual 1998, as well as Orion, Onearth and other periodicals. Oliver was editor of Best American Essays 2009. Oliver’s books on the craft of poetry, A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance, are used widely in writing programs. She is an acclaimed reader and has read in practically every state as well as other countries. She has led workshops at various colleges and universities, and held residencies at Case Western Reserve University, Bucknell University, University of Cincinnati, and Sweet Briar College. From 1995, for five years, she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from The Art Institute of Boston (1998), Dartmouth College (2007) and Tufts University (2008).
One of few avidly read living poets, Oliver revels in the beauty of the living world, and takes to heart its lessons in patience and pleasure, cessation and renewal. As piercingly observant as ever in this substantial and forthright collection, Oliver is rhapsodic.—Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Her poems pop up at many of life's turning points, including death. Readers go to her for solace, regeneration and inspiration . . . After a few hours in her quiet, exuberant presence, one feels as though the raw sunlight in the room, the brightness of the water, the white wood and flashing wings outside the window are bleaching unimportant details from the day."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
"A collection of poems that is moving, intense and evocative in its engagement of the natural world."—Angela O'Donnell, America
"Mary Oliver ranks among the finest poets the English language has ever produced. Whether she's describing a caterpillar's transformation . . . or describing her own mystical connection to birdsong . . . she almost always can come up with striking, resonant images. . . . Oliver observes with great sensitivity, and puts her impressions in verse in a way that few can match. . . . Her poetry is rigorous, beautiful, well written, and offers genuine insights into the natural world."—Eli Lehrer, The Weekly Standard