April, 2011 – Poet Mary Oliver

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Cultural Corner

 

Poet Mary Oliver Comes to Lynn

 

By Marla E. Schwartz

 

Someone glorious this way comes.*

 

 

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Mary Oliver

 

Mary Oliver is one of this country’s most esteemed and cherished poets representing the natural world since Ralph Waldo Emerson. She has acknowledged that her greatest influences include the works of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau and many have compared her affinity for solitude and interior monologues to those of Emily Dickinson. It’s a rare treat indeed that Mary will be reading her poems, inviting the audience to participate in a Question & Answer session afterwards and then concluding the evening with a book signing at Lynn University (LU).

 

She will be introduced by LU Associate English Professor, Lizbeth Keiley who is a gifted poet in her own right and is the Advisor to the Poetry Club. The event takes place on Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 PM at the Keith C. & Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton, 33431. Tickets are a mere $15.00 and can be purchased via: Phone/Box Office: (561) 237-9000, Website: www.lynn.edu/tickets and for information please E-Mail: tickets@lynn.edu. The price is more than well-worth admission because tickets in the past have sold out at locations for one hundred dollars a pop.

 

“I think Ms. Oliver impresses readers with a deep sense of the simplicity and depth of the natural world,” Lizbeth said. “Unconsciously, perhaps, one aspect of her widespread appeal lies in our longing for an escape from the noise of the modern world, bringing readers instead to what is true. Add to this, her pristine language, her lyrical impulse and the often child-like wonder in her voice, and you have a poet who not only captures the imagination of her readers – but refuses to let go of it. Lynn is fortunate to have her share her work with us, especially considering she gives so few readings.”

 

In honor of National Poetry Month, Mary’s appearance is being

Photo by Kevork Djansezian
Photo by Kevork Djansezian

 presented in partnership with Miles A. Coon, Founder & Director/President of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival along with LU. If you attended the recent PBPF and were witness to the sensational presentation by Robert Pinsky – consider this another great opportunity by this exceptional organization to again witness history taking place. If you missed this year’s PBPF, then you have even more of a reason to come out and listen to Mary read some of her selected poems. It promises to be just as an inspiring an evening as it will be entertaining and it’s definitely appropriate for all ages. There’s a good bet that the audience will also be filled with the amazing poets who have attended the PBPF over the last several years.

 

David Fleisher, Associate Professor of English in the College of Liberal Education at LU, an accomplished poet, playwright and journalist is thrilled that Mary will be reading her poems at LU. “She doesn’t give many readings of her work,” David said. “I think LU and the community are fortunate to have such a celebrated artist visit us and share her work.”

 

 

Miles also chimed in about Mary’s upcoming presentation in Boca Raton. “LU was the venue of the very first Palm Beach Poetry Workshop and I’m grateful to the school for their faith in us. Professors from Lynn have judged our annual high school poetry contest, participated in poetry workshops at the festival and taught courses featuring work by festival poets. The school has provided scholarships for gifted students to attend festival workshops.”

 

“We were thrilled when friends at LU asked us to work with them to bring Mary Oliver to their campus during National Poetry Month. She’s the poet I recommend most often to first-time readers of poetry,” he said. “She helps me see the world I’ve looked at for over seventy years, but somehow overlooked. Her poems are startlingly beautiful.” He highly recommends her most famous poem Wild Geese as a poem everyone should immediately read when it comes to her work. This poem is found in Mary’s bookNew and Selected Poems, Volume One.

 

Miles added, “In these times, when loss seems to fall upon loss, when we despair for the planet itself, Mary Oliver’s poems provide solace and an abiding faith in the power of the natural world and the human imagination to help us find our ‘place in the family of things.’”

 

There’s a good chance Mary will not only recite Wild Geese, but one of her other admired poems The Journey, as well. Mary is renowned for her evocative and precise imagery, which brings nature into clear focus, transforming the everyday world into a place of magic and discovery. U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz said, “Mary Oliver’s poetry is fine and deep; it reads like a blessing. Her special gift is to connect us with our sources in the natural world, its beauties and terrors and mysteries and consolations.”

 

Mary has authored twenty-seven books of poetry, including her first collection, No Voyage and other Poems (1965), the Pulitzer-Prize winning American Primitive (1984) and New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award. Over the past two decades she has taught at various colleges and universities – Case Western Reserve, Bucknell, Sweet Briar College, the University of Cincinnati and Bennington College in Vermont.

 

Mary Oliver with Maria Shriver. Photo by Frederick M. Brown.
Mary Oliver with Maria Shriver. Photo by Frederick M. Brown.

It was in 2005 when Mary’s beloved life partner of forty-years, the celebrated literary agent and photographer Molly Malone Cook, passed away from cancer in the home they shared in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Mary has dedicated many of her books and poems to Molly, particularly her poem Freshen the Flowers. In 1986, Molly traveled with Mary to Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and New Zealand on a cultural tour sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency. This uniquely exceptional poet originally hails from Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland where her father Edward W. Oliver, was a social studies teacher and an athletic coach in the public school system.

 

It’s necessary to note that Mary is a very private woman who greatly values her solitude and rarely grants interviews. However, after six years of politely declining an interview with Maria Shriver, the guest editor of O Magazine’s April 2011 issue, a special publication that celebrates National Poetry Month, Mary finally agreed to Maria’s interview request. And thank goodness – because it’s a magnificent read. If you’re interested in all that is Mary Oliver, you can read Maria’s exclusive interview at oprah.com/entertainment/Maria Shriver-Interviews-Poet-Mary Oliver. And you can find Mary at facebook.com/PoetMaryOliver or you can go to Mary’s website at maryoliver.beacon.org.

 

Also, go to palmbeachpoetryfestival.org to find more information about next year’s event taking place January 15-21, 2012 at Old School Square in Delray Beach, FL.

 

* Editor’s Note: The first line is a little twist on a Shakespeare reference. The phrase “something wicked this way comes” originates from Act IV, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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Marla E. Schwartz

A native of Toledo, OH and a graduate of Kent State University, Marla E. Schwartz is a Senior Writer for Miami Living Magazine and is currently a cultural arts columnist for AroundWellington.com and Lighthouse Point Magazine. Her photographs have appeared in these publications, numerous Ohio newspapers, as well as in The Miami Herald, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. She has had numerous plays published and produced around the country. Her short play, America’s Working? was produced in Los Angeles at both the First Stage and the Lone Star Ensemble theater companies, in Florida at Lynn University and then at an off-Broadway playhouse in NYC. Her piece, The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Please check out the re-prints of her interviews with authors Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Dexter novelist Jeff Lindsay in the October 2010 issue of Duff Brenna’s ServingHouse: A Journal of Literary Arts at www.servinghousejournal.com. You can contact her at marlaschwartz@att.net.