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love poetry?

November 6, 2009


i was thinking about love poetry the other day, which isn’t a form of poetry that i think about often. there is so much that is trite and not enough that is jarring and startling and that challenges you and tries to shake you from your tree, from your cross, from your staid conceptions. i first read al purdy in first year of undergraduate, thanks to an amazing teaching fellow/professor (jeremy.. oh what was his last name??) who was so wonderfully enthusiastic about poetry that he managed to ignite a measure of that enthusiasm in a percentage of the class.

he loved al purdy and i remember that the first time i read this poem, my heart got thick and tender.


If it came about you died
it might be said I loved you:
love is an absolute as death is,
and neither bears false witness to the other —
But you remain alive.

No, I do not love you
hate the word,
that private tyranny inside a public sound,
your freedom’s yours and not my own:
but hold my separate madness like a sword,
and plunge it in your body all night long.

If death shall strip our bones of all but bones,
then here’s the flesh and flesh that’s drunken-sweet
as wine cups in deceptive lunar light:
reach up your hand and turn the moonlight off,
and maybe it was never there at all,
so never promise anything to me:
but reach across the darkness with your hand,
reach across the distance of tonight,
and touch the moving moment once again
before you fall asleep —

From Al Purdy’s Rooms For Rent In The Outer Planets, which i do own and do love.

and one time… billeh nickerson called me the “gay al purdy” after i had read at an opening for him at queen’s university, and it pretty much made my year. that is a comment i will remember for the rest of my life.

it’s mainly the lines

“your freedom’s yours and not my own:
but hold my separate madness like a sword,
and plunge it in your body all night long.”

that get me. the idea of love as both tyrannical and yet also exquisite, as sexual, as enough to sustain two people – it’s a flawed love letter. for an assignment in undergrad, we were required to write a glosa and i actually chose those four lines. truthfully, i love the idea of a glosa – interacting or talking with a (dead) poet or writer. it’s a form of poetry that i go back to when i get creatively stuck. it’s also amazingly egotistical. how can i, a burgeoning “poet” or “writer” (i still find it so pretentious to call myself a writer. how insecure and sad is that?) even dream of interacting on the same level as al purdy?

the resulting poem was actually fantastic. because it ended up being so long, it really suctioned some emotion out of me that i wasn’t expecting to come out.

that was my literature of the day. i am waiting for the exterminator. to come. for the third time. to spray. for bed bugs. which means doing a lot of laundry – again – and finding ways to scrounge up a lot of loonies and quarters – the corner store LOVES me – and spending another night at a hotel. hopefully this is the last go at it.

my head hurts. i am fragmented. but the one thing that i can always come back to – the steadfast, the waiting, the lovely, the absorbent and exquisite – is poetry. words cushion in general but it’s poetry in particular for me.


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