Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, Dies at 83

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Mary Oliver

Oliver wrote brief, direct pieces that sang of her worship of the outdoors and disdain for greed, despoilment and other human crimes.

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose rapturous odes to nature and animal life brought her critical acclaim and popular affection, has died. She was 83.

Bill Reichblum, Oliver's literary executor, said she died Thursday at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. The cause of death was lymphoma.

"Thank you, Mary Oliver, for giving so many of us words to live by," Hillary Clinton wrote in a tweet. Ava DuVernay quoted from Oliver's poem "Praying" and fans online shared their favorite lines.

Author of more than 15 poetry and essay collections, Oliver wrote brief, direct pieces that sang of her worship of the outdoors and disdain for greed, despoilment and other human crimes. One of her favorite adjectives was "perfect," and rarely did she apply it to people. Her muses were owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the stars.

"In my outward appearance and life habits I hardly change — there's never been a day that my friends haven't been able to say, and at a distance, 'There's Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook,'" Oliver wrote in "Long Life," a book of essays published in 2004.

"But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel."

Like her hero Walt Whitman, whom she would call the brother she never had, Oliver didn't only observe mushrooms growing in a rainstorm or an owl calling from a black branch; she longed to know and become one with what she saw. She might be awed by the singing of goldfinches or, as in the poem "White Flowers," overcome by a long nap in a field.