Love Poems You Wish You Had Written #3–Thursday Edition with Carol Ann Duffy

English: Carol Ann Duffy (cropped)
Carol Ann Duffy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Suzie Grogan, alias Keatsbabe, we’ve started again in the memorable tradition of 2013, posting Love Poems You Wish You Had Written. But now it’s Thursday and I just cannot help but adhere to a more recent tradition here on the Dad Poet, the Thursday Love Poem!

Now, it’s been a while since our last Thursday Love Poem feature, since September in fact, so let’s review. What exactly qualifies? Well, a Thursday Love Poem is a love poem that is unique, not quite what you’d expect, a very different way of looking at love, and possibly not one fit for a Valentine’s Card. You can click right here to see all of the Thursday Love Poems we’ve shared, including Richard Blanco’s “Killing Mark,” my own poem about a Chinese cleaver, Dorothy Parker’s “One Perfect Rose,” and of course the TLP’s namesake, “Thursday,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.

And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday–yes–but what
Is that to me?

No, I don’t suggest you read that to your lover this weekend, but you really should read it out loud to someone, or maybe read it in public with your phone to your ear; read it as conversationally and causally as you can. You’re guaranteed to raise some eyebrows.

As I was pondering over what to use for this pre-holiday Thursday, the Thursday of Love, I stumbled upon a poem shared on Twitter. I cannot recall to whom I should be giving credit, but I was delighted to find this unique, and honest view of romance from UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, perfectly titled for this week’s edition of TLP.

Duffy has held the ten-year position of Poet Laureate since 2009, and she’s the first woman to wear the title. You can learn more about her work and listen to her read her poem “Syntax” over at the Poetry Archive, or you can check out her interview from September’s edition of The Guardian in which she assesses her first five years in office.

Now brace yourself. This poem might make you cry.

VALENTINE

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

–Carol Ann Duffy
From New Selected Poems 1984-2004 (Picador, 2004). Originally published in Mean Time (Anvil, 1993).

 

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A Thursday Love Poem, “The Four Moon Planet,” by Billy Collins

Cover of "The Notebooks of Robert Frost"
Cover of The Notebooks of Robert Frost

I don’t know what Robert Frost was thinking when he jotted those words in his notes, “I have envied the four moon planet.” Or maybe he never wrote them at all. Maybe Billy Collins just made the whole thing up. I’ll have to read The Notebooks of Robert Frost to find out for sure. But it’s a lovely poem that Billy created from Frost’s idea.

And since aliens and outer space are sometimes subjects of scary movies and costumes (I’ve dressed as an alien for Halloween, haven’t you?), then maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to make “The Four Moon Planet” by Billy Collins our October 31st Thursday Love Poem. You know, it being Halloween and all, and we bloggers feeling this market-driven need to relate everything to everything else.

Come to think of it, isn’t that what poets do? I recall Billy saying as much in another poem. “The Trouble with Poetry,” I believe it was.

Aside: And while I’m thinking of it, if you managed to miss the former Poet Laureate reading, quipping, and doing poetry tricks with Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report Tuesday night, treat yourself by clicking here.

But what’s a Thursday Love Poem, you ask? Well, let me quote myself from last Thursday, when we enjoyed the first ever Thursday Love Poem. Last week we were dumped unceremoniously by Edna St. Vincent Millay via the Thursday Love Poem feature’s flagship poem, appropriately called “Thursday.”

. . . And what should a Thursday Love Poem be here on The Dad Poet? Well, let’s face it, it’s got to be a bit unconventional. No Hallmark cards of course, and none of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Not that your sweetheart doesn’t deserve a nice greeting card, and not they the Bard’s love poems are not a delight (come to think of it a few might actually fit in here) . . . But we have already read Robert Burns’, “my luv is like a red red rose.” Here I want to share something different, off-center, unexpected, something that resonates, but may not be what you expect from a love poem.

. . . I do not wish to act as if true love and romance in a poem is “dishonest,” as some writers claim. But for a poem to be a Thursday Love Poem it will have to look at that tenderness squinting sideways, maybe standing on its head, in order to give us a unique view, one other than what the masses have come to expect of a love poem.

In other words a Thursday Love Poem isn’t your grandmother’s love poem, baby.

And so for this Thursday Love Poem we go galactic, but subtly with the master of wit and winsomeness, Billy Collins. Perhaps I’ll make a brief comment or two below the poem’s text.

 

The Four-Moon Planet

I have envied the four-moon planet.
-The Notebooks of Robert Frost

Maybe he was thinking of the song
“What a Little Moonlight Can do”
and became curious about
what a lot of moonlight might be capable of.

But wouldn’t this be too much of a good thing?
and what if you couldn’t tell them apart
and they always rose together
like pale quadruplets entering a living room?

Yes, there would be enough light
to read a book or write a letter at midnight,
and if you drank enough tequila
you might see eight of them roving brightly above.

But think of the two lovers on a beach,
his arm around her bare shoulder,
thrilled at how close they were feeling tonight
while he gazed at one moon and she another.

From Ballistics
Copyright © 2008 by Billy Collins
Random House

Alright then. You have heard me defend Collins, as if he needs defending, from those who criticize his “simplicity,” using the word “accessible” as if it were a bad thing, as if erecting an electric, barbed-wire fence around an art museum were a good idea. You have heard me say a hundred times that accessibility does not equal simplicity. Neither does complexity, ambiguity, or depth of thought require linguistic word puzzles meant to lose the reader and prove how very clever and intelligent the poet is. Collins is certainly accessible, but he’s anything but simplistic.

And this poem is a prime example. It may also serve as an illustration of why I love poetry so much.  Prose might have simply told us, “In matters of love we are so unknowably different from each other that we are doomed to have wildly divergent views of what our relationship actually is.” Or, “We never see each other for who we are, and nobody could ever truly know the other’s thoughts.”

This is probably all true; it might even be a revelation, but how beautifully Collins sets us up, not to tell us this, but to let us discover it ourselves in the final line, “while he gazed at one moon and she another.” He says it without ever saying it. And the result is that tiny gasp, maybe not the freezing, headless sensation Emily Dickinson described, but a tug in the gut that makes me feel something true. And it comes about from a carefully laid trap that I am glad to have fallen into, the way I am glad when Agatha Christie brilliantly shows me why I should have known all along what Miss Marple understood about the murderer. This is why I can’t get enough good poems in my life, getting slapped in the gut, liking it, and asking for more.

Poem on.

Poetry at the Pennsylvania Capitol

Staircase and rotunda of the Pennsylvania Stat...
Staircase and rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, seen from entrance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You won’t hear much from me here on the Dad Poet until after Thursday. There is just too much to do between now and then. Five poets will be converging on the Pennsylvania state capitol, and I am honored to be one of the five. The news I alluded to earlier this week is that the First Lady of PA and Chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Susan Corbet will be present, and introduced by former Poet Laureate of Harrisburg, Nathaniel Gadsden.
Jerry Wemple and Marjorie Maddox, co-editors of Common Wealth, Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, and Melanie Simms, former Poet Laureate of Perry County will also be reading. Most of us will carry the reading on to the Midtown Scholar bookstore in Harrisburg that evening at 7 pm. If you click on their name above and go to the link you will also see that WITF has selected Marjorie and Jerry’s book as their Pick of the Month!

We will be in the East Wing Rotunda of the Capitol Building from noon to 1:30 pm, and on the main stage at the Midtown Scholar (yes, a bookstore with a “main stage!”) at 7 pm. If any of my readers are in the area, please come by.This is indeed exciting stuff, and it’s an thrilling time I think
to be a poet. Thanks for letting me share all of this with you.

Day 15 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “Stone,” by Charles Simic

Photo by Michelle Blankenship

Well, I finally got a bit of  outside reading done, though I had to try several takes from multiple spots, due to background noise.  I abandoned one reading done from the balcony of a local restaurant, simply because I didn’t like the inflections of my voice. While listening in the car afterward I decided that I hadn’t read the poem right. So I’ll save May Swenson for another day.

In the end, I came back to this poem, by Charles Simic, which I had memorized last week. I frankly am no good at memorizing my own poems. Why? Possibly because they go through so many drafts and re-writes and fits of editing that I am never sure which is the version I most recently decided was the best. With the poems of others I only know one version, and so it’s easier. Therefore, I try meticulously to get each word right, out of respect for the poet, when I attempt to recite one from memory.

Charles Simic was poet Laureate of the U.S. five years ago, and as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising.” I recently read an article called Age of Ignorance by this poet in the New York Review of Books blog, which is well worth reading. You might also be interested in his Confessions of a Poet Laureate.

So on this 15th day of National Poetry Month, the Ides of April, I present from the 15th Poet Laureate of the United States, a poem first published the year I was born. And if you think I arranged all of this on purpose, you give me way too much credit. I just thought the kismet was too much not to mention it. You can check out Simic’s own reading of this poem here (video narrated by Garrison Keillor), and judge whether the video below does his work justice. I think the thumbnail for my video looks hilariously dramatic.

 

Stone 

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

Charles Simic, from What the Grass Says. (Harcourt Inc., 1967)