Remembering Mary Oliver

Deme Apostolou, Op Ed Editor

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
These words are by American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who recently died at the age of 83.
Even if you don’t study poetry, you definitely have stumbled across her words at some point in your life.  Oliver’s lines have been plopped on to everything from refrigerator magnets to greeting cards.  It is the stoic and straightforward manner in which she would write which set her apart from others.  As she famously said, in order for poetry to be understood, “It mustn’t be fancy.”
Oliver’s poetry is a look into the intricate details of the natural world.  She was a guide to the world of flora and fauna, writing passionately about what she witnessed.  Later on, Oliver would add more of her personal view into her work.  Still, on the subject matter of nature, she interjected her thoughts on the individual and human interaction.
Oliver was inspired by other poets like Walt Whitman and Edna St Vincent Millay.  She ended up winning numerous prestigious awards and honors throughout her 50-year career. Today we remember Mary Oliver as a powerful woman who taught us all to see the world around us in a new light.
In her poem “When Death Comes” she looks ahead to her own death writing,

When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” 

Let us be inspired by her philosophy of living life to the fullest and making your mark on the world in lieu of her recent passing.  Thank you to Mary Oliver for everything she has done for the literature community and may she rest in peace.