|Craft Tip Monday: Love Poems|
"better than sex"
There's a quote from baseball great Reggie Jackson that says hitting is better than sex. I won’t lie and say that I’m speaking from any kind of experience, but I think it could probably be argued that the same can be said of a good poem. Poems themselves are seductive snippets of language. We fall in love with poems; we roll them around in our mouths and our minds and carry them in our hearts like love notes. And when you think about it, when we write poems we are really performing an act of seduction: we are wooing our readers, reaching out to them, and hoping that someone out there will take what we have to say and fall in love with it, too.
“what’s love got to do with it?”
So what’s so special about a love poem? If all poetry is seduction, then a love poem is pretty much as deep into the waters of wooing as we can get. A good love poem is the ultimate romance. In them, we kindle the flame with the objects of our love—be it a spouse, or a child, or a place, or our dreams, or a good book—at the same time as we’re kindling the flame with our readers. We have to be twice as clever, and twice as careful. Our imaginations take center stage as we find the right metaphors and language to describe our love, or to describe the object of our love, or to describe what it is like to have—or lose—love. We work to find ways not to be too obvious with what we’re saying, to make people wonder and go with us on a journey into the poem’s subject, and come out surprised on the other side.
“more than words”
There’s a song by the band Extreme that says, “More than words / is all you have to do to make it real / then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me / ‘Cause I’d already know.” Though I think the subject of the poem is a bit less noble than a love poem (and probably takes us a bit more into the direction of Reggie Jackson’s quote), it’s true that a love poem demands a lot more than words. That is, it’s not enough to just write “I love you.” We have to work to make it become real, through word choices, sound, and all the other elements of a good poem we work at constantly.
Try this: pick an object that you think could represent the subject of your love. I might describe my mother as a bird or moth, or my best friend as a parking lot, or my love of poetry as a warm bed or an empty bottle, or myself as a worn shoe. Describe the object in as much detail, and as vividly, as possible. Then apply that description to the thing you love as a metaphor. See what happens when you don’t change your original description of the object; how well does it describe the person or thing you love? Work with your description to apply it as well as you can to the object of your affections. By starting with the description of the object and then describing the person/thing you love, you just might find new ways to allow the image and the object intersect on a deeper, more personally emotional level.
Here’s my (abbreviated) attempt:
Along for the ride
You are a parking lot-----full of comings and goings.
A mother carries her son across the blacktop, steps
soothed by the sound of the young boy counting
aloud the thick yellow lines dividing car from car,
separating soul from soul—and you are there, line
by line, weaving your name between the gentle ring
of a mother’s steps. Across the way a boy becomes
a man behind the wheel. And you are there
behind the wheel. The world happens in a parking lot,
revolves around each wheel and bolt, each palm
to palm touch across pavement that unites us,
like me to me, far across the world.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think of love poems? Do you agree that poetry is a form of seduction? Give the prompt above a try, and be sure to let me know how it works for you!
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