Years ago, when I was young and impressionable and dreamy and romantic and oh so foolish and thought I had something to offer and thought I could help the world—nay, thought I was MEANT to help the world, I fell in love. Hard. You know the kind—big sigh can’t sleep can’t eat can’t think can’t breathe glow-in-the-dark Jesus-kill-me-now-or-I’m-going-to-kill-myself-kind-of-love. That kind.
It did not evolve. I managed somehow to put it away. In a closet somewhere. Hung it up on a hook. Not so far away that it disappeared, but far enough away so that I didn’t have to look at it every single damned day because that hurt too much. I never forgot about it—never—but I was able to hide my pain and function appropriately in most situations. But occasionally, masochist that I am, those times when I was in crisis because it was raining out or I couldn’t find the coffee filters or the cat was under the bed, and I felt like going out in the garden and eating worms, I would resurrect that heartache and let it eat away at my soul. Ouch. And if that didn’t cause enough internal trauma, I would dig around in the garden some more, adding more worms. And grubs. And bugs. And beetles. Any nasty thing I could find to feed the pain. Until the tears started. Then I would wallow in that place of tears and pain and hurt for a good while, until even I couldn’t stand myself anymore, and I would go put on really really really (three “really’s” is a big deal) sad love songs (Air Supply was my favorite) and sob away, crying immense tears and using tons of tissues. Then I crawled back in my shell, which I had never really left anyway, and went back to being myself: my normal, shy, introverted, unlovely self. The self I had always been, the self that no one knew, or cared to know. Every time I had one of these melt-downs, the torment of that long-ago lost love got a little less painful.
Later, after I went to school and took some classes in poetry, I wrote a poem about that love, hoping to be done with it. Nothing new there: who hasn’t written about their lost love/broken heart? The thing about this is, he was (is) someone famous. And a recent public announcement he made rekindled all the anguish and I was forced to confront the torment all over again. I was not prepared mentally or spiritually to do this.
I got an “A” in the class, then I took an independent study from the same professor But even though I did well in the poetry class, I did not then, and I do not now consider myself a poet. There are far too many poems I find incomprehensible and inaccessible. I am not a scholarly type; I am more of the “June, moon, spoon” type. I read a poem about cows recently that I understood and really liked, so I wrote my own. Cows have feet called hooves. Cows stand still sometimes, but also run. Cows have fur and wet noses. I like cows. Moooo. No deep dark underlying secrets there, no indecipherable imagery, just something that is questionable poetry, but I am pretty sure worded in a way that just about everyone can relate to. The other one that I mentioned earlier, that inspired me, was much better.
So anyway, last week, on the heels of that publicity statement, I had to go back and look at my long-ago poem again. And I realized that writing feelings down on paper can help; it is a cathartic release so that I don’t get paralyzed by self-absorption. Poetry allows me the freedom to say who I am inside, which can be emotionally exhausting, and because it is “poetry” there is a separate set of standards for the writer, and different expectations from the reader. Poetry is more exacting, and I find I must distill every phrase to arrive at a precise meaning. This can be a tiresome chore, because when I am writing something–a business letter, a memoir—I find myself agonizing over word choices, and this can unimaginably slow down the process. I think this is why writer’s make use of “poetic license;” it allows a freedom of expression that is necessary to capture individual and highly personal statements, and if no word exists to express a feeling, the poet can invent one. This is kind of an unspoken contract between the poet and the audience; a more “laissez-faire” approach.
Love is one of the most common themes in poetry because it is a universal feeling. But just because love has been addressed by many poets that does not mean it has been over-done. A good love poem is always satisfying to the soul and to the heart, and to the writer that lives in each one of us. The following poems speak to me because they are so succinct.
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