Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poet Mary Oliver will read from her latest book, Swan, and other works, in Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 5:00 pm. Oliver’s poetry, with its lyrical connection to the natural world, has firmly established her in the highest realm of American poets. Her reading is free and open to the public.
“Mary Oliver’s poetry touches the hearts of people of all ages connecting the human experience with the natural world through words that illumine and inspire,” says Victor Kazanjian, dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life that is sponsoring the event. “Her memorable phrases include ‘What is it that you will do with your one wild and precious life?’ from her poem ‘Wild Geese,’ which was the theme of this year’s Flower Sunday celebration and resonates with our students’ search for meaning and purpose in their lives. We welcome Mary to Wellesley as one of the sages of our time teaching through the gift of her poetry.”
Swan, Oliver’s 20th book of poetry, was released Sept. 14. She begins the work by asking, “What can I say that I have not said before?” She meets this challenge by following her heart, and while it leads her into places familiar from her previous work—forests, beaches, spider-webbed corners—she finds each one as fresh and wondrous as she did when she first happened upon it. Presenting this well-known world anew, Oliver has crafted from her joy little gems that glow with precision and clarity. Whether she describes nature (“Each tree was/a green ship in the wind-waves”) or a darker abstraction (“Death taps his black wand and something vanishes”), the scenes and ideas are immediate and vivid.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for “American Primitive” and the National Book Award for Poetry for “New and Selected Poems, Volume One,” Oliver continues to influence generations of younger poets.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, innumerable readers go to Oliver’s poetry “for solace, regeneration and inspiration.” Few poets express the immense complexities of human experience as skillfully, or capture so memorably the smallest nuances. Speaking, for example, of stones, she writes, “the little ones you can / hold in your hands, their heartbeats / so secret, so hidden it may take years / before, finally, you hear them.” It is no wonder Oliver ranks, according to The Weekly Standard, “among the finest poets the English language has ever produced.”
Oliver lives in Provincetown, Mass.
For more information, visit www.wellesley.edu/RelLife or call 781.283.2685.