Mary Oliver: Saved by the Beauty of This World

Date TBD | WNET’s American Masters


Mary Oliver – best-selling poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner; lover of dogs and long walks in the woods; a gay woman – out, but intensely private. Her poems inspire liberals and conservatives, atheists and believers, naturalists and urbanites. They serve as solace and affirmation for young people who today celebrate her widely on social media. Inspired by muses like Rumi and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary Oliver was America’s unlikely, contemporary mystic, stalking the ponds and forests of Cape Cod for nearly fifty years in order to open herself – and us, her readers – to the known and unknowable world. If poetry had a pop icon, Mary Oliver would be it. Mary Oliver: Saved by the Beauty of the World considers the poet’s long lifetime of work in context, exploring how she is paradoxically acclaimed (by her fans) and derided (by some poetry elites) for being “accessible.” The film is an enduring love story that holds Mary Oliver’s writing at its heart and center. Her poems, excerpts from her prose, essays, rare interviews and more, root this portrait in the poet’s own language. Dazzling visual imagery of the landscapes that shaped her writing, and as well as abundant archival photographs and films, capture and portray the uniqueness of her world and the natural beauty that inspired her.


Director, Sasha Waters is a documentary and experimental filmmaker and professor at the #1 ranked public School of the Arts in the nation at, Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research into the archives of trailblazing American photographer Garry Winogrand fundamentally challenged and changed the art historical understanding of his legacy and resulted in the film Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable and a book project currently under contract with D.A.P., Garry Winogrand Archive 1948-1984 (forthcoming in 2024). The Winogrand film was called one of the year’s best by The New Yorker, won a Special Jury Prize at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and aired on American Masters in the 2018-2019 season. Prior to Winogrand, Waters’ film Razing Appalachia (2003) – the first ever feature documentary about the devastations wrought by mountaintop strip mining – aired on the PBS series Independent Lens. She has received support from the Catapult Film Fund, Field of Vision and the National Endowment of the Arts.