There are writers who are clearly talented and intelligent, with something to say, but their writing is so clinical that it's difficult to stay engaged. For me, Mary Oliver is one of those writers. I found her poetry to be far more arresting than her essays, which tended to be long-winded and full of navel-gazing.
Once in a while I found bits of genius on Oliver's layers of sentences, like this:
It is supposed that a writer writes what he knows about and knows well. It is not necessarily so. A writer's subject may just as well, if not more likely, be what the writer longs for and dreams about, in an unquenchable dream, in lush detail and harsh honesty.
This is probably a personal preference, but I also enjoyed Oliver more when she was being a bit random rather than when she was utterly focused on a subject. Cases in point:
There are as many worlds as there are imaginers.
In order to be the person I want to be, I must strive, hourly, against the drag of others.
I can think for a little while; then, it's the world again.
This isn't to say Oliver is outright unbearable when she's focused. When she is passionate, her gift for poetry emerges:
Now comes a peaceful day, all day long. Then comes evil, crossing the street, going out of its way with determined steps and a face like a nail - invasive, wanting to molest, to hurt, to stain, to dismay, to dishearten.
I only wish that gift would come out more in her writing.