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Mary Oliver’s “Felicity” offers an escape to someplace serene

4/5 Stars

A 2017 release by the multiple award-winning author, Mary Oliver, “Felicity” offers a collection of short poems about love separated across three sections: “The Journey,” “Love” and “Felicity.” From Cleaveland, Ohio, Oliver spent her younger years developing her passion for writing and nature, later becoming strongly influenced by the works of Edna St. Vincent Millay. As one of her later works before her recent passing in 2019, “Felicity,” allows the reader into Oliver’s thoughts on love, both highlighting her understanding of relationships within the natural realm, and how deeply emotional forming relationships are.

“Felicity” begins with Oliver’s setting of pace, telling the reader to slow down, and take enough time to absorb as much as they need. From there, Oliver continues in free verse, often relying on her formation of rhythm by subtle consonance with an occasional end rhyme when tension allows. Although Oliver doesn’t follow an extended metaphor style throughout the collection, she follows many poems through with her personification of feelings, such as love, or even simple metaphorical lines surrounded by soft, natural imagery. At the ending of some poems, Oliver poses questions such as, “What is your heart doing now?” and “What is the reason for it?” which serves to break the fourth dimension and ask the audience to become aware of their own tension, or critically think about their own philosophies. 

In the three areas aligned with the breaks of the collection, Oliver incorporates brief epigraphs translated from the Persian philosopher, Rumi, regarding transitions, love and acceptance. These epigraphs prime the reader to simultaneously enter the world of Oliver’s philosophy while keeping their virtues in mind, unearthing themes such as religion and God, the place of man within nature’s space and nature as a language, and universal understanding and fate. The theme of springtime and new beginnings carries throughout the collection, creating a sweet, hopeful aura through each theme, exploring Rumi’s advice and building upon Oliver’s own understanding, culminating in the final section, “Felicity.” 

An accessible read, Oliver’s “Felicity” is a critical collection of poetry. Foundational for those looking for more exposure or practice engaging with symbolistic thinking, her collection of poems leaves the audience wandering on the outskirts of reality, thinking about the bigger picture and forgetting the drone of everyday life — which is now seemingly more important than ever. Recommended at 4 out of 5 stars, readers should discover Oliver’s “Felicity” and escape to someplace serene, even for just a little while.

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