Poetry and love

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There’s a million poems and poets out there and an infinite number of themes, and yet, for me, poetry and love are forever intertwined. Love is hard to describe, and yet poetry always finds the words…but maybe it’s the exceptional person wielding the pen who makes it look so easy and not the form after all. But I also suppose humans are capable of great feats of intellectual and physical prowess when love is on the line, such as writing beautiful poetry and deciphering the complex world of emotions. As such, and for today’s post, I am not going to answer the question of why poetry seems to be in league with love, but, rather, I am going to share some poems that help us understand love a little better.

Viewing the world through Sandburg and Bronte

Long before I became interested in poetry, the image of a long-nosed Steve Martin calling to a woman in a window possessed my brain every time I saw a stanza. There is something very poetic about that image in my mind, which may or may not be a scene from the movie Roxanne (1987) but Cyrano de Bergerac be dammed anyway.

Regardless, poetry fits so perfectly for pining after somebody or just observing the folly of love or the “give and take” of romance because it can so perfectly obfuscate meaning just a little. Take for instance, Carl Sandburg’s “Offering and Rebuffing,” which so delicately plays with love and feelings toward love.

“I could love you/as dry roots love rain,” Sandburg writes. “I could hold you/as branches in the wind/brandish petals./Forgive me for speaking so soon.”

It’s so sweet, but he finishes the poem with, “Love is a fool star” (Sandburg).

There’s some cynicism there, which is probably warranted, at least from my own perspective, due to the commercialization of love, and because society is seemingly incapable of going back on the notion that maybe love and marriage don’t belong together. That is to say, it seems like you get married for security and you love somebody because you love somebody…but I could be wrong about that. I mean, I am married and I love my wife, but I can’t help but wonder about the strange things humans do to show their devotion.

Though, not all poems are so cynical and many actually give us keen insight into how relationships operate on some level.

For instance, Emily Bronte’s “Love and Friendship” makes me think of the duality of marriage and love when we get our most sour. “Love is like the wild rose-briar,/Friendship like the holly-tree–/The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms/But which will bloom most constantly?” Bronte’s poem reminds me that marriage is a partnership between two friends even if love can seemingly fizzle out sometimes or be less preferable to a platonic relationship; and, only through poetry can we really see this complexity of love in a different way.

I have to thank the elucidating powers of poetry because they have a way of conveying the most difficult feelings to me when I am confused or upset. Love is certainly one of those difficult feelings, and I think poetry adeptly explains the mystery of sparks igniting in our brains when we see our loved ones. And, whether the holly is dark or the roots dry, sometimes it’s just nice to have an explanation to the most complicated things in life if only to make our feelings just a bit more clear.