…we will discuss a perennial question: What makes a poem a love poem? What are the qualifications that push your ordinary, quotidian poem into the realm of the romantic? That’s going to be my present this year. Everybody okay here? It’s either that or I buy another Whitman’s Sampler…and you know where that takes us.
“Honey, does this box of chocolates make me look fat?”
So…one, it has to be a poem and, two, it has to have something to do with love (to get the banalities out of the way), and, three, there has to be some further affinity going on, some synergy—or sovereignty—that putting the two together creates. I mean, why do ‘love’ and ‘poetry’ jump each other’s bones?
There are websites devoted to bad love poetry. Here’s an example, pretty much chosen at random
I also agree,
I am falling
This poem bears the title ‘Adoration, part 3’and is attributed to ‘Liarbyrd’. Butrose is pushed together, suggesting maybe someone’s name—or posterior—and where ‘But, rose, I agree’ would at least have shadowed the apostrophe in William Blake’s great poem, The Sick Rose—‘O Rose, thou art sick…’— there is a weak ‘also’ suggesting, I guess parts 1 and 2. Compared to other very short poems, where powerful imagery prevails, like Pound’s In the Metro Station—
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
—‘Adoration, part 3’s’ not even trying. And as to its rhyming agree with continually…well:
Thy smell continually
Is with thee;
Is it the sea—
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
There are of course websites with good love poems. This poem is called Sonnet 29…and, no, I am not going to do a compare and contrast with ‘Adoration, part3’: Like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth…
To propose some broad questions we could ask: What is love and why should we think it has something to do with poetry? Or: what is poetry and why should it be thought the perfect vehicle to express love? And: What’s the connection here? Does this particular highly charged emotion have something particular to do with poetry, or is this some wash-back from Romanticism? While there may be poems that express shame or envy, these aren’t genres. ‘So-and-so, he’s quite a master of Pity Poetry. I feel bad for him.’