A bundle of myrrh is well-beloved unto me;
he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
Songs of Songs chapter 1, verse 13 (KJV)
So what? What I think makes some ‘Love Poems’ so special, the real deal?
Out of some kind of reverence for Love Itself, and for Poetry managing to defy Its own odds in order to give a thorough, solid and (con)densed treatment of the Love subject, the real, true love poems, I would say, would rather not parade themselves as ‘Love Poems’.No. Rather than glory in balling up the nobility and boundlessness of both Poetry and Love in one piece, such poems seem to give deference – if not reverence – to the two for allowing themselves to first agree to, and then, let themselves gel and congeal in a way that only the two of them can.
In such ‘love poems’, I usually find a rare, impossible mixture of something bordering on both the down-to-earth and divinity.This quality is almost to a fault, a fault which is so striking in its essence and depth and sweep that, one forgives the ‘fault’ in a way that is a quite shy – not short – of awe and yet, too generous for one to even help it. Simply, such poems have character like no other: humility – almighty and enthralling yet, approachable and filling…
Like I said somewhere of KwabenaAgyareYeboah‘s writing, there is someThing about such poems that definitely transcends art and makes an easy cliché of talent – and sometimes, even of what genius means. And it almost does not matter if that piece of poetry was informed and or inspired by some rooted, riveting personal experience or encounter of any kind. Poems of this nature, obviously, are either rare or are not found in every pile, on every day. Or I do not even know what a love poem (really) is.
Much of the – for lack of a better word – magic of such poems lies in saying the taken-for-granted and the mundane in ways that are much better than just new; in ways that language is capable of and at the time, is bereft of. More of the – again, for lack of a nobler word – success of such ‘love poems’, just like most other poetry, lies in letting every syllable and pause or break of any kind, every capitalization and punctuation –if any at all – and the whole poem says more than its individual parts, and much more than its entirety.
The use of original, apt imagery is one way of a poem can pull of this magic. Imagery is word-based. Other stylistic devices like structure, syntax and versification can also be explored and of course, used to complement the use of imagery. Whichever way a poem achieves this magic, it expands and or creates (new) meanings and (shared) experiences where they never existed, or where these worlds of were even thought to be possible – as far as the medium of language is concerned.
And the beauty-full-est of all these is that, these magic-s (poems) are so effortless and light and fluid that one wonders whether one is not reading so much into so little. Also, one wonders whether it is ever possible for the profound and the unbounded to really happen; one is forced to wonder whether that really did happen – in such a demure poem of all others. Their brows are not weighed down with mere mechanics. Neither are they, anywhere and in any way – forced into shape and being, and then propped up, with anything that amounts to trying too hard to please – or trying to please or even, wanting to please.
And it is this very lack of want to please – and most times, even indifference to please, too – that makes the reader, the supposed giver of the ‘success’ label, wonder when in the reading of the poem that s/he was shortchanged into giving out the label, quickly and too eagerly, all the while, without remembering any real ‘work’ done by the poem.
Oh, one actually ends up being pulled into and served, literally, the import and the world of the poem. So much so that one forgets all the ready-in-hand, rather artificial criteria for what a poem should look like, should be and should do. Such poems are on no prowl to score such points. In being themselves, they become many things to the many people who encounter them. And much more often than not, they are well able to afford to be the exact someThing that each of the many, many different readers are or will be, were or long to be.
Without so much as even choosing or meaning to, such poems are unassuming, at a glance, or at the start, at least. And this unassuming-ness is as well the (strong)hold of the poem. And to a large extent, this nature is also the magic’s (read, poem’s) success. Such poems. They do not intend, not to even talk of trying, to succeed. Whatever success even means. Such poems, like Love that is true and real and has come to stay, do exist, but again, are not in every pile, and not found every day. Not yet, at least. I think.
More often than not, and like I once said of Ayikwei Armah’s writing (prose, to be specific) too, such poems get to choose their readers – read, LOVErs. Strangely, this their proud, choosy nature, perfectly fits and gives hold and character to their unassuming, too-humble-to-be-truenature(s).
And this probably explains why every time I forget the title of such poems and or the names of their authors, I know too well that I have not lost anything at all: I may be one lucky, chosen LOVEr of such poems so I can always know that they will draw me unto themselves, with or without much effort in my seeking them out…one time too many. Always, actually. And what more, they will never fail to give me a fresh draught…a new peek…an-other spark…some simple pebble of a wisdom or a twig of thought for keeps – just one more reason of any kind, just someThing to keep me coming back to them.
I speak of such Love Poems.
And I present the second set, five of the fifteen Love Pieces, five more shades of the magic that is called L.O.V.E.
6. Two Poems by Kofi Anyidoho
I met a tall broadchest
strolling down deepnight
with my fiancée in his arms
She passed me off for a third cousin
On her mama’s side of a dried-up family tree
I nodded and walked away
Murmuring unnameable things to myself
Bloomington, 9 September 1978
I could go down in crouching posters
I could gather your woes your griefs
I could reach all out for that last
calabash of fresh palm-wine
go to sleep to sleep and sleep
sprawled upon the floor amid your tears…
But I would wake up before the squirrel’s
search for a morning meal
Bloomington, 22 November 1978
7. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
8. Two Psalms of/by Biblical David ben Jesse.
Psalm 23 (A Psalm of David)
1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Psalm 133 (A Song of Degrees of David)
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard,even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon,
and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
or there the LORD commanded the blessing,
even life for evermore.
9.The Prologue (a sonnet) to Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy by William Shakespeare
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
10. I’m Really Very Fond of You by Alice Walker
I’m really very fond of you,
I don’t like fond.
It sounds like something
you would tell a dog.
Give me love,
Throw your fond in a pond,
But what I felt for him
was also warm, frisky,
and could swim away
if forced to do so.