Mary Oliver (1935-2019) was an American writer focused primarily on writing poetry and prose about the interaction of humanity with nature. She was also part of the LGBTQ+ community and lived with her partner Molly Cook, an American photographer. Oliver dedicated many of her works to Cook and, after her death in 2005, published a collection, titled Our World, of Cook’s journal entries and photographs along with her own prose and poetry.

“Felicity,” another collection of poems by Oliver, was published in 2015. This collection is full of poems about love and life, and probably also about her relationship with Cook. Oliver’s poem “Not Anyone Who Says” is one of my favorite poems and happened to be the one that re-evoked my love of not only reading, but writing poetry. 

 

“Not Anyone Who Says”

Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be

careful and smart in matters of love,”

who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”

but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all

but were, as it were, chosen

by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable

and beautiful and possibly even

unsuitable —

only those know what I’m talking about

in this talking about love.

 

“Not Anyone Who Says” covers the complexity and beauty of love and possibly even the idea of soulmates. Oliver creates a great buildup of tension by repeatedly using adjectives in the 7th, 8th, and 9th lines. With a pause after “unsuitable,” Oliver gives the reader a breath before sinking in her final note about love: “only those know what I’m talking about in this talking about love.” 

Oliver’s words are absolutely compelling and beautiful. She uses the juxtaposition of powerful and beautiful with uncontrollable and unsuitable to show that love isn’t simple. Love is full of ups and downs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Oliver’s main point is that love chooses you.

Mary Oliver has many other published works such as “Dog Songs,” “New and Selected Poems,” and “No Voyage and Other Poems.” Along with that, she also has multiple published prose works. You can find her work on Amazon, at your local bookstore, or at the library.

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