(that ye)May be able to comprehend…what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height…and to know the love, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with…fullness…
Ephesians 3:18-19 (KJV)
For what Thing has oaths been broken, laws come to no use, paradises been lost, selves ceased to be, wars raged and been waged, worlds toppled over and family feuds fueled or even, been started?What one Thing has humankind, with all their possessions and statuses, will never tire of hearing, experiencing, giving and if granted, receiving in portions and folds, over and again?
For what same Thing has yokes been broken, wounds been bound, hearts known healing, shores been recovered, worlds bloomed anew, and collective tongues found or even, been formed?What Thing at all has poem and story upon song been made and continue to be made, all of which are, and will never grow stale and silent on the ears and possibly, very soul of humankind?
For one thing, I like to tell myself that I am not into love poems, both in writing and in enjoying reading them. I can explain:
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Largely because they make much more room for more details, I can tolerate short stories, novels, movies etc.about or on love. In fact, there is something about Helen Dunmore’s novel, The Seige; Kwaw Ansah’smovie, Love Brewed in the African Pot; Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun; David Nicholls’s movie adaptation of his own novel, One Day; and The biblical Solomon’s Songs of Songs, that will always stay with me. I can mention more. Something human and more about how Love was treated and explored in these works, at least.
I do realize that because poetry is usually – supposed/ expected to be dense and compact, and at the same time, manage to say so much in as little words as possible, poetry cannot afford the luxury of explication as one would expect or like, and especially so for a subject like Love. So I should blame poetry’s economy of words, I know.
Also, I know I ought to know that not every poem need be so hard a code – or nut, even – to crack, just for its own sake. It sure has been said once and almost too many a time that any piece of writing, including poetry, must first communicate, before any functionality and or aesthetic, no matter how mundane or not so so.
I should consider the many poems out there which have done huge justice to this same Love subject, unlike the many more prose forms which fall short of exhausting the subject, not even with their relatively bigger room for words.This too I know.
And oh, I do realize that not every poem need to be this serious, this exalted. In fact, there are poems that are intentionally not supposed to make any sense at all – like some concrete poems; poems that are willfully silly – like limericks and parodies; poems that are allowed to be without reason – pun not intended.
However, it is probably for these same reasons that poetry should rather want to avoid, if not leave, the Love terrain altogether. And this is not at all because poetry is incapable of getting the job done exhaustively, but because, poetry, being a self-cum-popularly-acclaimed ‘nobler’ one of the three genres of literature – play(script) and prose being the other two – it is just unlike it, if not unbecoming of it, to bore down on subject matter and happenstance at the expense of depth and density in meaning, and unity and solidity of theme.
Talking of depth and solidity and all…
red rose flower on back-and-white wood
One of my all-time favourite people from literature – you may call them characters – is Senchi, in Efua Theodora Sutherland’s Edufa , an African/ Ghanaian adaptation of Euripides’ Alcestis. In a doubly serious conversation with his friend, Edufa, about having ‘…solidity…(being) Something…Somebody…(having) grip…’ in life, Senchi says,
‘But perhaps, that, like many statements we are capable of expressing, is merely grasping the extremes of light and dark, and missing the subtle tones for which we haven’t yet found the words.’
For one who says he makes ‘Songs for everything; songs for goodness, songs for badness; for strength, for weakness, for dimples and wrinkles; and for making you cry. But… never make(s) songs about ugliness because (he) simply thinks(s) it should not exist.’, he must surely have songs about this Thing they call Love.
Being ‘…the wanderer…’, being one who ‘Comes in the nick of time when everything he loves is together in one place. Friends, women, bottles…’, and being one who is ‘…trying to pay (his) way in (life with) the currency of songs.’, we can say that ‘expressing’ Love is one of the ‘many statements’ Senchi talks of.
Also, being the wanderer that he calls himself, he must have seen enough of this world and of this life to know enough about this thing they call Love. He must know enough to talk and sing about Love, while keeping in mind that this same Love, ‘…like many (things/ feelings/ emotions) we are capable of expressing, is merely grasping the extremes of light and dark, and missing the subtle tones for which we haven’t yet found the words.’
This ‘merely grasping (at) the extremes’ is the burden of words and of the worlds and possibilities they come with. This ‘merely grasping (at) extremes‘ is the burden of all genres of literature, and for poetry in particular. And especially so for subjects such as Love. I believe.
They call Poetry’s (quality) ‘economy of words’. They simply call this other one ‘Love’. Where it is very possible and plain needful, let the two live and let live.
– Monday, 18th May 2015; about 8:30pm