February 11, 2010

One-Horned Beasts

Given the recent preoccupation with snow, snow, and more snow, hard to believe that Valentine's Day is suddenly upon us. I've been thinking about love poems, which led to an essay "On Love Poems (and Other One-Horned Beasts)." 

Here's the opening excerpt:

I’ve been writing love poems.
Or rather, I’ve been trying to write love poems.
To be precise, I’ve been cursing the blank page where my love poems should be. I’m in love, damn it. Where are the poems? When I’m sad, I can write about sadness. When I took a cable car up Mount Pilatus, I could describe the view from 7,000 feet.
It’s not uncommon for a lover to ask, “why aren’t I in your poems?” Usually the poet thinks, “You don’t want that. Showing up in poems is a bad sign.” There is a truism that poems do not thrive on the agar of contentment. No, that’s not quite it; great poems do not thrive on the agar of contentment. Mediocrity flourishes in any petri dish. William Butler Yeats, in “Meditations in Time of Civil War,” diagnosed the problem. “Only an aching heart,” he said, “Conceives a changeless work of art.”
You’d think the ratio of poems about love affirmed, versus love lost, would be similar to the ratio of happy marriages to failed relationships. But look through any sampling of literary journals, and you’ll realize that genuinely joyous “love poems” are like unicorns. They’re extremely rare; they come to people seen as preternaturally faithful or naïve; and afterwards, someone points at what’s left behind and says, “Well, looks like plain old horse manure to me.”

& you can read the rest of it here


Martha Silano said...

A completely awesome essay, Sandra. Do you know Kary Wayson's work? Her new book AMERICAN HUSBAND (just out from Ohio State/The Journal) contains all order of love poem, from the gut-wrenching painful to the jubilant, and everything in between.

bill said...

Enjoyed the essay, which reminded me of William Stafford's sly:

Passing Remark

In scenery I like flat country.

In life I don't like much to happen.

In personalities I like mild colorless people.

And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,

says, "Then why did you choose me?"

Mildly I lower my brown eyes--

there are so many things admirable people do not understand.