ANOTHER DEATH TO BRAVE
by Mac Oliver
And soon enough, foreseeably, you’ve lost
Another one you love, another death
To brave, more ashes thrust into your face,
More thoughts about the walks, forgotten nights,
More dust to walk upon, to think of ghosts
Of the departed, real as a dream
From which you had no wish to wake, in which
They breathe & blink again. I’m vexed at his
Brown study now, as Ransom wrote, a poem
Present in a half a dozen books,
Anthologies, he gave as Christmas gifts.
He left a stack of ancient magazines,
A trunk he tagged for me before he died,
A simple note attached to it, unseen
At first, left hidden in the flat, that said
“These items are for Ham, to be preserved.”
He made his living room, entire place,
Hospitable to poetry, to keep
A kind of purity at heart, in mind.
The rest, as Hazlitt quotes from As You Like It,
Is mere oblivion, a dead letter.
Mac Oliver is a bit of a mystery. As I can piece together, he earned his degree from Tulane in 1994 and went on to study poetry in the Doctoral program at the University of Minnesota. His first book of poems, Ham & Mercury, was printed privately, and another book of poetry, Savior of the Netherlands, is available in full online for free. Oliver is also a pen-and-ink artist, and, at least in 2008, a resident of Santa Barbara, California.
Editor’s Note: This poet was by request. If you have a request of your own please feel free to post it as a comment.
This happens to be my favorite request thus far on the Saturday Poetry Series, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to post it straight away. It was requested that I post any poem by this poet “because he is beautiful and I love him but I’ll never be able to tell him.” Now, the hopeless romantic in me was instantly won over. Unrequited love, a mystery love story, and a poet who is himself a mystery. How could I possibly resist?
What I can glean from the limited information about Mac Oliver on the web is that Oliver is a poet influenced by the poets of yore. He seems to like to explore poetry in form and uses antiquated language to create poems that are vignettes and that function like flash fiction. He also was strongly influenced by his uncle, to whom his book Savior of the Netherlands is dedicated, and who makes a number of appearances throughout Oliver’s work. I believe, from the context of the book, that “Another Death to Brave” may be about his uncle as well. Oliver was also strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound, which I think is evident in his use of form and choice of language.