I do have to mention, as I begin this post, that I was inspired by the wonderful David J Bauman over at The Dad Poet. We both love poetry and he has a wonderful reading voice – I was lucky enough to have him read one of my own poems, Life Force, included in Dandelions and Bad Hair Days.
Anyway, as we approach St Valentine’s Day I thought I would, with his permission, pinch his idea and post some poems that I wish I had written.
There are many classic love poems, often read at weddings, which move us and which are truly beautiful. But I think it is very hard to get love poetry ‘right’ as we live ever further into the 21st Century and life seems to take us away from expressing our feelings eloquently to those we love. Text speak is not designed to involve deep thought, or send a pleasant shiver down the spine. An email just doesn’t compare to the joy of a handwritten note and Valentine’s Day cards are just as likely to refer to ‘willies’ and ‘boobs’ as to hearts and flowers.
So I am full of admiration for contemporary poets who can express universal feelings of love, disappointment, longing and lust in language with which we can all identify.
In the past I have posted on Carol Ann Duffy’s Words Wide Night, one of my favourite poems of longing and Thom Gunn’s The Hug, which is an embrace in words. These are two of the poems I would have included in this series; but this exercise has encouraged me to read more widely in my collections of poetry to discover more fabulous poems of the heart.
As our bloods separate the clock resumes,
I hear the wind again as our hearts quieten.
We were a ring: the clock ticked round us
For that time and the wind was deflected
The clock pecks everything to the bone.
The wind enters through the broken eyes.
Of houses and through their wide mouths
And scatters the ashes from the hearth.
Sleep. Do not let go my hand.
I love this for its physicality and its intense sensuality. ‘I hear the wind again as our hearts quieten’ so neatly expresses how the abandonment of all consuming passion creates a world apart for the lovers, they have succeeded in suspending time; but this is then tempered by a sense of what seems to be intense fear and anxiety. The clock ticking is a greedy bird, eating away to the end of everything; the wind is something destructive and inescapable – reaching even to the hearth. The heart of the home. That anxiety needs continued contact. ‘Do not let go my hand’ is so definite, so filled with the need for comfort and protection from the truth of the world outside that room, that the love between these two people becomes something outside reality, a reality which is an eerie, hostile world. It is a world in which none of us can escape the passing of time.
Well that is how I see it anyway. For me it is an intense love poem and although dark, it is romantic in the way it expresses longing and a denial of the reality of the inevitable ‘scattering of ashes’.
What do you think? I am really interested in what others consider ‘love’ poems. Are the best romantic and full of lush imagery? Are they humorous or full of longing? I would really enjoy hearing your selections if you feel like commenting. February can be a cold month so I hope these posts can a warm the cockles of a few hearts.
To find out more about David Constantine see the British Council Literature Matters page.