‘The Invitation’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer is a twelve stanza poem that is divided into uneven sets of lines. The range in length from five to twelve with no specific pattern of rhyme. There are very important moments of repetition though that help to unify and direct the text. Every stanza begins with either the phrase “It doesn’t interest me” or “I want to know.” Through these phrases the speaker is setting out the aspects of a prospective lover she cares the most about.
The syntax of the piece is very straightforward but made more impactful by instances of enjambment. The technique can be seen between the first and second lines of each stanza as the speaker reveals one thing she does or does not care to know about her lover.
Another example in the text is at the end of the fifth line of the first stanza in which Dreamer cuts off the line “if you are to dream” before revealing what the dream is. This makes the revelation, which follows in the next line, all the more impactful.
The power of this piece of poetry comes from its list-like format. As a reader moves through the lines the previous statements build off one another until one is able to imagine the mental, emotional and spiritual outline of the speaker’s ideal lover. You can read the full poem here at Family Friend Poems.
Summary of The Invitation
The poem begins with the speaker making two initial statements about what she does and does not want to know about a possible lover. First, she does not care what they do for a living. She does care about their dreams and what their heart aches for secretly. The speaker goes on to add that she wants her life and that of her lover to be filled with the great adventure of being a live.
One of the most poignant metaphors crafted by Dreamer in the text is the comparison between the listener’s interests and planets. They circle around this person, making up their exterior image. This is a perfect example of the type of information the speaker doesn’t care about.
She continues on to develop another important aspect of the text, how the listener stands up to scrutiny, loss and disaster. Her lover’s strength, mentally and emotionally is crucial. They must not flinch from the “flames” and be willing to stand up to their own, and even her, failures.
As ‘The Invitation’ progresses she adds that she doesn’t care about her listener’s children, past, or the mask they wear in public. Everything she needs to know comes from within her lover’s soul. The poem concludes with the speaker expressing her interest in knowing if her listener could live within their own mind, without the company of others. Their interior fortitude is a deal breaker for her.
Analysis of The Invitation
In the first stanza of ‘The Invitation’ the speaker begins as she does approximately half of the stanzas, with the phrase, ‘It doesnt interest me.” While the line will become common place and lose some of its impact after reading it in different iterations, the first appearance is impactful. It is an interesting way to begin ‘The Invitation’ and provides a pleasing hook for the reader who will want to know more.
The speaker states that she is not interested in knowing what “you do for a living.” The “you” she is speaking to is the intended listener and her prospective lover. The first stanza outlines that she cares much more about what this person “ache[s] for” than what their life consists of at the present moment. She sees through the surface level definition an occupation brings and is reading to meet this person’s “heart’s longing.”
It is clear from the start that she is not looking for a simple relationship. She is seeking out something deeper and longer lasting. It is also safe to assume that she would prefer the listener know her in the same ways she is seeking to know them.
The second stanza contains eight lines in which she brushes off pointless bits of information such as how old “you are.” Age does not define who or how she loves. Instead, one piece of information she would be interested in is a great risk this person took. Or perhaps a time they looked like a fool for something they loved. Her ideal lover pursues the great “adventure of being alive.”
In the third stanza the speaker begins with her last “It doesn’t interest me” statement for now. This time the point she is trying to make is less obvious. She refers to a moon that represents her lover’s life, whether that be emotionally or physically, and the “planets” that “square” it. These are the people, topics, or issues that revolve around the listener’s life. They are exterior and mean nothing.
Instead, she is interested in knowing if this person has come to understand their own sorrow and accepted the negative things that have happened to them. These would include any “betrayals.” The speaker provides a contrast by wondering over how her lover reacted to the betrayals. Did they face them? Or “shrivel” away from the pain? It is clear the former is her preference.
The fourth stanza makes a clear statement about how she would like her lover to deal with life, specifically pain. She states that she needs to know if the listener has the strength to “sit with pain” and not move to “fade it” or “fix it.” This could be her pain or their own. It should not be something debilitating. Pain should provide a strength rather than a weakness.
The fifth stanza of ‘The Invitation’ is similar to the fourth in that it asks the listener to “sit” with emotion. They should be able to take in “ecstasy” and let it fill them. She is seeking a relationship that is not bound by caution or constant reminders of realism.
The speaker is seeking some sort of elevation from her normal like and someone to accomplish this with. The last two lines of the stanza relate back to the last line of the second stanza. She is again probing her listener for something purely and unabashedly human.
The sixth stanza of goes back to the “It doesn’t interest me” opening line. Here she explains that her lover’s story does not have to be “true.” This seems to go back on everything that was mentioned previously until it is considered more deeply. She does not care about the stories told for the crowd or the masks worn in public. Her interest is in the complexity and strength of one’s soul.
This is seen through her questioning of the listener’s ability to “be true to yourself.” They should also be able to “bear” betrayals without destroying their own soul.
The seventh stanza of ‘The Invitation’ is the shortest of the twelve at only five lines. The speaker turns to beauty in this section and asks if her listener can see it everywhere. Beauty should be clearly present even when it is not “pretty / every day.” She does not define what the un-pretty things are. This allows beauty to apply to the largest section of the everyday possible.
She concludes the short stanza by expressing her desire that her lover take strength from the “presence” of beauty in the world. This sourcing of strength would provide one with a base purity from which their life could stem. Therefore everything they are comes from a deeply held belief in the beauty of everything.
The speaker again asks the listener if they would be able to live with disappointment and loss, as well as failure. This is not necessarily their own, it could be hers as well. She wants a lover who can take it all in stride and remain strong in the face of defeat. They should be able to take power from an upset and “shout” out that they have not given up. Their soul is still strong.
The ninth stanza seems somewhat superfluous in that it goes over more details unnecessary to the speaker’s love. These include her lover’s children or how much money the listener makes. It is likely Dreamer included these lines because they are two of the most common reasons for starting or ending a relationship. She is pushing back strongly against the concept of what a relationship should be.
The speaker returns again to “disappointment” and the strength her lover must possess to continue on with their life. In this instance it takes the form of feeding the children even when one is “bruised” with “grief and despair.”
The tenth stanza also has to do with bravery, but this time the speaker is being more direct. She asks that this person prove to her that they are willing to stand “in the centre of the fire” with her and “not shrink back,” or recoil from the flames. The fire is a metaphor for the difficulties or obstacles the couple might encounter.
Her lover’s moral strength is much more important to her than how they came to have that strength.
Looking again into the listener’s mind, the speaker tells them that their education does not interest her. Nor do their cultural interests. What does matter is “what sustains” them when there is nothing else left. This desire of the speaker to see deeper into her listener shows that she does not care if they have the same passions she does, as long as they do have passions.
In the last six lines she expresses her desire to know her lover could live their life alone, or at least enjoy their own company. “Empty moments” as well as depressing, terrifying and demeaning ones are commonplace and it is how the listener handles these times that interests the speaker.