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Mary Oliver Honored with Diane Ackerman

Celebrating the life and work of Pulitzer-Prize winner poet Mary Oliver, as she receives, in absentia, the 2019 Henry David Thoreau Prize for Literary Excellence in Nature Writing. Accepting on behalf of Mary Oliver will be Diane Ackerman, poet and best-selling author, recipient of the 2015 Henry David Thoreau Prize and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Tentative schedule:

1. Welcome by Mike Frederick, executive director of The Thoreau Society (3 minutes).

2. Alexis Rizutto, from Prize Committee, briefly explains the program. Mary Oliver, winner of the Thoreau Prize for 2019, is unable to come here to accept it. Diane Ackerman, winner of the Thoreau Prize in 2015, is here to accept the prize on Mary Oliver’s behalf (3 minutes).

3. Stephen Tapscott, poet and Professor of Literature at MIT, introduces Diane Ackerman and explains her role as the stand-in for Mary Oliver (3 to 5 minutes).

4. Diane Ackerman, poet, novelist, nature writer, speaks about what Mary Oliver and her poetry have meant to her. She addresses the practice of nature writing–what it means, why it is essential–and why Mary Oliver is among the best of American nature writers. Diane then reads five of her favorite Mary Oliver poems.

5. Mary Cerulli introduces the Thoreau Prize and awards it to Diane.

6. Dale Peterson reads the acceptance letter from Mary Oliver, along with one or two of Mary”s selected favorites from her own poems. Diane Ackerman is the recipient of the 2015 Henry David Thoreau Award for Nature Writing, as well as the Orion Book Award, the John Burroughs Nature Award, the Visionary Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lavan Poetry Prize, an honorary doctorate from Kenyon College, was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. Several of her books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Circle Critics Award finalists. In 2016, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She also has the rare distinction of having a molecule named after her —dianeackerone— a pheromone in crocodilians. Ms. Ackerman has taught at a number of universities, including Columbia and Cornell. Her essays about nature and human nature have been appearing for decades in the New York Times, New Yorker, American Scholar, Smithsonian, National Geographic and many other journals. She hosted a five-hour PBS television series inspired by A Natural History of the Senses. A feature film of her non-fiction work, The Zookeeper’s Wife, premiered in March 2017.


Nov 16 2019


6:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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