Mary Oliver's poetry is fine and deep it reads like a blessing," wrote Stanley Kunitz many years ago and recently, Rita Dove described her last volume, The Leaf and the Cloud, as "a brilliant meditation." For the many admirers of Mary Oliver's dazzling poetry and luminous vision, as well as for those who may be coming to her work for the first time, What Do We Know will be a revelation. These forty poems-of observing, of searching, of pausing, of astonishment, of giving thanks-embrace in every sense the natural world, its unrepeatable moments and its ceaseless cycles. Mary Oliver evokes unforgettable images-from one hundred white-sided dolphins on a summer day to bees that have memorized every stalk and leaf in a field-even as she reminds us, after Emerson, that "the invisible and imponderable is the sole fact.
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.