Born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of twenty-three. Over the course of her long career, she received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She led workshops and held residencies at various colleges and universities, including Hennington College, where she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. Oliver died in January 2019.