Our World (Hardcover)

By Molly Malone Cook (Photographer), Mary Oliver (Text by (Art/Photo Books))

Beacon Press (MA), 9780807068809, 83pp.

Publication Date: October 17, 2007

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Description

Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, is one of the most celebrated poets in America. Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005, was Oliver's partner for many years, a pioneer gallery owner and photographer. Our World weaves forty-nine of Cook's photographs and selections from her journals with Oliver's extended writings, both reminiscence and reflection, in prose and in poetry. The result is an intimate revelation of their lives and art.

Within the art world, Molly Malone Cook made her reputation as an early advocate of photography as an art form; she was a champion of the work of now-famous photographers, including Edward Steichen, Eugene Atget, Berenice Abbott, Minor White, Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, and W. Eugene Smith. There are famous faces here as well, captured by Cook's camera, among them Walker Evans, Robert Motherwell and Henry Geldzahler, the first curator of twentieth-century art at the Metropolitan Museum.

Cook and Oliver also lived among writers, and Cook caught several on film, including Lorraine Hansberry and Norman Mailer. Other artists and dozens of wonderful characters and scenes are also immortalized by Cook's unfailing eye for telling detail and composition. Oliver writes of Cook's work, the people they knew, and the places they visited or lived. The poet's beautiful text captures not only the vivifying qualities of her partner's work, but the texture of their shared world. In Mary Oliver's words, Cook taught the beginner poet "to see, with searching attention and compassion.


About the Author

A private person by nature, Mary Oliver has given very few interviews over the years. Instead, she prefers to let her work speak for itself. And speak it has, for the past five decades, to countless readers. The New York Times recently acknowledged Mary Oliver as "far and away, this country's best-selling poet." Born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems, originally printed in the UK by Dent Press, was reissued in the United States in 1965 by Houghton Mifflin. Oliver has since published many works of poetry and prose. As a young woman, Oliver studied at Ohio State University and Vassar College, but took no degree. She lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state, companion to the poet's sister Norma Millay. It was there, in the late '50s, that she met photographer Molly Malone Cook. For more than forty years, Cook and Oliver made their home together, largely in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where they lived until Cook's death in 2005. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards. Her fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She has also received the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award; the Christopher Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light; the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems; a Lannan Foundation Literary Award; and the New England Booksellers Association Award for Literary Excellence. Oliver's essays have appeared in Best American Essays 1996, 1998, 2001; the Anchor Essay Annual 1998, as well as Orion, Onearth and other periodicals. Oliver was editor of Best American Essays 2009. Oliver's books on the craft of poetry, A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance, are used widely in writing programs. She is an acclaimed reader and has read in practically every state as well as other countries. She has led workshops at various colleges and universities, and held residencies at Case Western Reserve University, Bucknell University, University of Cincinnati, and Sweet Briar College. From 1995, for five years, she held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College. She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from The Art Institute of Boston (1998), Dartmouth College (2007) and Tufts University (2008). Oliver currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the inspiration for much of her work. Beacon Press maintains a Mary Oliver website, maryoliver.beacon.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/poetmaryoliver. Molly Malone Cook (1925-2005), was born in San Francisco. One of the first photographers hired by the Village Voice, in 1960 she opened what was probably the first photography gallery on the East Coast. She also owned a bookstore, which was occasionally staffed by the filmmaker John Waters. Later, Cook became a literary agent to Oliver and other writers. Oliver and Cook lived together for more than forty years.


Praise For Our World

"The photographs Oliver has chosen reflect Cook’s intuitive relationship with her subjects (even inanimate objects). The little girl on the stoop in New York City looks directly at the photographer, as does a kindly Robert Motherwell and a fierce, almost intimidating Walker Evans. Even though most of the photographs are dominated by a central person or object, there is a lot to look at in the margins, all part of the story. The stance of her subjects—reading a book, looking through a telescope—is always distinctive, creating the mood of the entire composition. The two photos of Oliver could have been taken only by someone who knew the subject well."—Susan Salter Reynolds, L. A. Times, January 6, 2007

"Cook was evidently an accomplished printer as well as a photographer and the images have been beautifully reproduced…In a photo which Cook took of Jean Cocteau dining in Venice in May 1954—one of her several fine portraits of celebrities—we glimpse the photographer silhouetted in an oval mirror on the wall behind the French poet. Her own face is hidden by her upheld camera but we sense that she controls the composition. In this selection of Cook’s work, so admirable in intention, she herself remains something of a shadow in a mirror. But perhaps, given her honesty of eye, we come to know her best by seeing the world as it once appeared through the discretion of her lens."—Eric Ormsby, The New York Sun (December 5, 2007)

"Mary Oliver. In a region that has produced most of the nation's poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world. Her Wild Geese has become so popular it now graces posters in dorm rooms across the land. But don't hold that against her. Read almost anything in New and Selected Poems. She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others."—Renée Loth, Boston Globe

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