Born: September 10, 1935
Ohio connection: Birth
Mary Oliver, daughter of Edward William and Helen M. (Vlasak) Oliver, was born in 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio. She says that at the age of thirteen, she had a great desire to be a writer. In 1950, when she was fifteen, she visited Steepletop, the upstate New York home of recently deceased poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. More visits followed, and she assisted Millay`s sister, Norma Millay Ellis, in organizing Millay`s papers. This experience had a significant effect on Oliver`s life and work. She attended Ohio State University, 1955-56, and Vassar College, 1956-57. In addition to her writing, she has had a varied and distinguished career, beginning with a position as chair of the writing department at the Fine Arts Work Center, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1972-73. She has also worked as a visiting professor at Case Western Reserve University, 1980, 1982; poet-in-residence, Bucknell University, 1986; visiting professor, the University of Cincinnati, 1986; writer-in-residence, Sweet Briar College, 1991-95; and Chair for Distinguished Teaching, Bennington College, 1996-present. Some of Oliver`s titles are No Voyage and Other Poems;The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems; American Primitive (Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984); Dream Work; House of Light; White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems; and Mockingbirds.
First prize, Poetry Society of America, 1962, for No Voyage; Devil’s Advocate Award, 1968, for “Christmas, 1966;” Shelley Memorial Award, 1972; National Endowment for the Arts fellow, 1972-73; Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, 1973; Guggenheim fellow, 1980-81; Award in Literature, American Academy and Institution of Arts and Letters, 1983; Pulitzer Prize, 1984, forAmerican Primitive; Christopher Award and L. L. Winship Award, both 1991, for House of Light; National Book Award for Poetry, 1992, for New and Selected Poems; Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, 1998.