The Poetry of Mary Oliver

Ref: C3125170

This course will cover the range of Mary Oliver's poetry from her earliest environmental pieces in the 1960s to the publication of "Thirst" (2007) marking the death of her partner Molly Malone Cook. It will surprise and delight by turns.

Course aim

This course will introduce the full range and achievement of the American contemporary poet Mary Oliver. Those who know her work will be delighted, those who don't will be amazed.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

The main themes on this poetry day will be nature and the environment, eco-spirituality, love and her devotion to her partner Molly Malone Cook and an awakening of Christian Catholic faith following Molly's death. These strands are woven into the poetry. We shall also touch on her poetic influences (Emerson, Thoreau and Emily Dickinson) and discuss her popularity.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. recognise a typical Mary Oliver poem from its style, themes and language 2. have a better understanding of eco-spiritual concerns in the USA 3. remind others that poetry can be sustaining, joyful and celebratory

How will I know I'm making progress?

There will be discussion of Mary Oliver's life and works throughout the day and I will flag up 'further reading'/ courses for the students.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Any good contemporary anthology of American poetry will give a context to Mary Oliver's work.

Reading and information sources

Any anthology of American poetry should give a context or the Bloodaxe anthologies "Staying Alive" and "Earth Shattering".

What could the course lead to?

Further 'reading poetry' courses will be offered by the WEA in Wolverhampton from the autumn.

Download full course outline

The Poetry of Mary Oliver Course Outline


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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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