Sunday, 18 April 2010

love & love poetry: everything we never talk about, let's talk about right now

I have a book of love poetry in print, steepy Mountain love poetry (2004), available via Kegedonce Press. I have to thank my friend, Greg Scofield, for listening to my over-excited conversation about this guy I used to go with, and who I was in touch with again, and all the possibilities that life was teasing and tormenting me with: put those feelings into a poem! he said. Within hours, the first draft of "Crucible" was written, and over the following year, many, many more love poems ensued.

In weaving the manuscript together, I chose that poem as the natural opening piece, and included only those poems that I thought others could relate to-- a poetic record of a journey through rekindled relationship.

All sorts of worries that might never have occurred to me as a girl of 19, when I first fell for the guy, were very much a part of my journey with him twenty years later. What had changed was, I was no longer a youthful traveller with a canvas knapsack, but a single mother of four. I was no longer 19, 20, 21, but 39 years old.  Most of the traumatic events of my life had been experienced either before I met this young man, who I would eventually marry, or they happened within the three on-again, off-again years we spent together, so, perhaps I was a more peaceful person, too, in many ways.

It was a tremendous time of wish-fulfilment, the courtship year, and the first years of marriage, for the poet, her muse, his ma and pa, her children.  I'd once dreamt that we had a child together, and the babe had one blue eye and one brown eye, so as the early years of our marriage passed, I was not at all surprised to have two more children, a little blue-eyed girl and a dark-eyed boy.

Somehow, sadly, the marriage we dreamt we would have, the one we discussed and plotted and planned, never fully took root: it seemed that the ghosts of the past, and the habit of disappointment, were stronger than all the common-sense, life-skills, and good wishes that either one of us could bring to bear.

When I found myself writing love poetry for some body else, I initiated one of those conversations that intimate partners have to have from time to time, the one that might be called, "Everything we never talk about, let's talk about right now."  Money, sex, the past, his paintings, my poetry, our future plans, and how we feel about everything.

Unfortunately, the conversation came too late. I had already made some decisions at a depth there is simply no arguing with. The conversation went well, but the marriage did not survive.

I think of the end of my marriage as a work-related accident.  I'd promised to write a piece about sex & sexuality, for a special issue of Spirit Magazine. I had most of a draft written, touching on a variety of sex-in-the-family topics, such as birth, masturbation, and my inclusive understanding of the term, family values. I just needed to write one more section, the I-&-Thou view.

Unfortunately, the problems in my  marriage were showing up as a block in my bodymind, and the deadline was breathing hot on my neck!  Ever the problem-solver, I called up impressions of the best of times with my husband, and I called up an impression of what an interesting somebody new might be like, and I pitched myself imaginatively between these two points of wonder. I wrote the missing segment, and completed the task at hand.

Alas, and as you already know, this is a cautionary tale. What I imagined for the sake of completing a writing task had a powerful impact on my inner life, and very soon I felt the earth shifting under me.  I tumbled in love with this other person, whose emanation I'd only meant to borrow, and the depth of my unhappiness with my husband became solidified into the decision I hadn't realized that I was on the verge of making.

Any time we publish a book, there is a parting of the ways. The book goes on to have it's own journey, or journeys, and we move along with our own. When things were most painful in my relationship with my husband, I became quite hilarious in performance, countering the love poetry with an irreverent between-the-poems patter. Once the end was in sight, however, all of the tension was gone, and I could read again the poems in this book, with the full measure of tenderness with which they had been written. Nostalgia, too, for what we both wholly wished may be.

I now have some 300 pages of love poetry, writ for a new muse, about half of which will be eventually published in a new book of love poetry, "halfling spring."  Some of these are finding their way into anthologies and journals, including the much-anticipated new anthology of Kegedonce Press authors, edited by Warren Cariou and to be launched this spring,  Speaking True: W'daub awae.

But love poetry is not restricted to romantic partners, the whole collection of mother poems I had published in 2007 are love poems of another sort, and the poetry we write for our friends, heroes, those we admire, are all expressive of love. However fraught with pain, if there were no love, no passion, there would be no poetry. Poetry is a vehicle for vitality, and vitality is love.

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