The Author-Mary J Oliver
Brought up in Cornwall, she studied Visual Art at Reading and Falmouth Universities. She taught and exhibited while raising her daughters in Scotland. Once they’d left home, she returned to Cornwall to lecture at Falmouth University. She initiated a series of collaborative art projects, involving a wide range of non-artist-trained participants; the resulting text and image installations were exhibited widely across the UK.
Her switch from visual art to writing occurred in 2008, when a dark revelation in the family triggered a desire to investigate her father’s mysterious past.
The outcome was a detailed biography which she doubted would be of interest to anyone but herself. So she distilled it drastically. This resulted in, Jim Neat, The Case of a Young Man Down on His Luck, a memoir that takes the form of a long narrative poem, accompanied by archival documents and evocative photographs. It is told in the voices of those who knew the protagonist, and reflects the feminist-collaborative nature of Oliver’s earlier visual art work.
In 2017 a version of it was awarded 2nd prize by New Welsh Writing in the Memoir section. Five of the poems have been set to music for piano by the composer Judith Bailey, and are available as CDs. Her poems have appeared in periodicals and anthologies in UK, US and Canada. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017.
Competitions won include those judged by Paul Muldoon and Ruth Padel.
She lives in Newlyn with her husband; loves table tennis, boxes regularly at her local gym, swims in Mounts Bay. She writes every day; edits Piccolina, a newsletter promoting live poetry events in Cornwall; until recently chaired Stanza Poetry Group; runs a poetry reading group, Float; represents Telltales at Penzance LitFest.