A pen-and-ink drawing of Wallace Stevens by Mac Oliver.


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.

Want to read more by and about Mac Oliver?
Savior of the Netherlands
Pen Drawings by Mac Oliver at Elsie’s
Maverick Magazine


  1. I have no idea how I came to see this, but its interesting because I new Mac in NOLA in the mid 90’s. I even wrote a bad poem about him for a poetry class… I can’t remember what the instruction for the assigned poem was, but I’m sharing it because you seem interested in knowing more about him. The only thing I know for sure is that he was a bar-back, he did love Andre Cordrescu and he did screw a girl in the bathroom and then wrote a poem for her on the toilet paper. I was interested in Bukowski at this time in my life, that’s the only explaination I have for the breaks and meter.

    Good ole Mac Oliver/ A curious soul./ His idol, Andre Cordrescu-/ As I said, a curious soul. / He pens poems/ On toilet paper/ For adolescent girls/ He screws in the john./ A graduate of Tulane/ Bar Backing poet he is. / His Father’s friends are senators,/ His mother, a D.A.R./ But Mac, He dreams of / Being a Merchant Marine. / Because that’s what poets do. / Poor Parents are at a loss.


  2. Thank you Riva. For adding another piece to the puzzle of this mystery, and for this little gem, “he did love Andre Cordrescu and he did screw a girl in the bathroom and then wrote a poem for her on the toilet paper.” Viva la poesia!


  3. Knowing the poet just a bit, what I am wondering is: was the toilet paper poem any good? And where you the girl in the bathroom??


    1. Karina, I am not the girl in the bathroom, but I wonder if the woman who requested this poem is. If you know the poet personally, please tell us a bit about him and help us solve this mystery! – Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Editor, Saturday Poetry Series


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