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Dartmouth Commencement 2007

(Posted 06/10/07)

Honorary degree citation to Mary Oliver (Doctor of Letters)
Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver

Born in Maple Heights, Ohio, you had Edna St. Vincent Millay as an early influence. Following her death in 1950, you lived in her house with her sister, as you honed your own craft as a poet. In your poem, "When Death Comes" you wrote,

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

We today affirm that surely there is little danger of such an outcome for you; you are more than a passer-by. Through your many collections of poems and essays you have explored nature, spirituality, and, most recently, grief. You have inspired and moved, challenged and spoken to millions of readers. You have been described as "an indefatigable guide to the natural world" and as a modern Thoreau or Frost.

You received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for American Primitive, the National Book Award in 1992 for New and Selected Poems, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1998. You stand as a great poet of your generation.

Dartmouth is pleased today to welcome you to the paths where Robert Frost often walked in years gone by, and to extend to you its admiring recognition with the degree Doctor of Letters.

-James Wright

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