Wednesday, February 7, 2007


I didn’t quite finish this list in my head the other night, so had to add a few today. I started out with the WCW poem, but couldn’t remember the names of some other poems, so made it a mix of some favorite “romantic” books as well:

ASPHODEL, THAT GREENY FLOWER—W. C. Williams’ famous “older” love poem
BELLS ARE RINGING FOR ME AND CHAGALL, THE—Terence Winch, whose “love poems” are never ordinary, never expected, always original, like this one from his book THE GREAT INDOORS
COLLECTED POEMS—Frank O’Hara, not all “love” poems except in the sense that his love of his friends and lovers and cultural icons, and most especially of poetry, permeates these unique “odes” to the romance of being fully alive, but also because it contains one of my top ten favorite love poems—“Steps”—but I wanted to reserve the “S” for Shakespeare’s Sonnets, since several of them are among the greatest love poems ever
DUMP, THE—Geoff Young’s serial poem about the end of a relationship, which may not be romantic in the traditional sense, but getting dumped is often how romance ends, and he nails the experience
ELLYN MAYBE POEM, AN—Ellyn Maybe, about as unique a “love poem” as you’ll ever read, from her book THE COWARDICE OF AMNESIA
FLEA, THE—John Donne, the original master of seduction—this is one of his most successful pick-up poems, where he argues that there is no honor to be lost by giving in to him, since a flea has already bitten him, and her, and therefore in its tiny body their bloods already mingle etc.—the great “metaphysical” poet was writing in the late 1500s and early 1600s in ways that many a “gangsta rapper” could learn some things from (I was also thinking of FINNEGANS WAKE—James Joyce’s most difficult “novel” that not just exemplified his love of language, but his love and lust for his wife Nora, which seemed apparent to me when I read and reread it as a young man, I was certain I saw in it obvious references to a female “bum,” as the English would put it, and I would rant about that to anyone who would listen, then decades later scholars got access to his letters to Nora and began to reinterpret his late masterpiece as a paean to Nora’s behind, among other things. Hmmmpf).
GUITAR, THE—Gail Dusenbery, a San Francisco bay area poet few remember I suspect, this sweet, memorable for me, short love poem from the only book of hers I know—THE MARK—still evokes certain women I’ve known and makes me smile to remember
HERS—John Godfrey, one of several “love poems” by him that always impress me, this one from the collection DABBLE
I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC—Walt Whitman’s famous paean to love and the human body
JUST LET ME DO IT (Love Poems 1967-1977)—Michael Lally (!)
KABIR BOOK, THE—Robert Bly’s “versions” of “Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir” is not about “romantic love” as such, though some of the poems refer to that, but more about love of God or the Unknown or Unconditional Love, but written like hip “love poems”
LIEDEN DES JUNGEN WERTHERS, DIE—Johann Wolfgang Goethe, which I read in translation as THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER, but as I said above I knew the “S” was reserved, thus the German title for the first, great, desperately romantic novel—about a young man so infatuated with a woman that her rejection leads him to suicide—an act so controversial at the time, 1774, that Goethe published the book anonymously—a book that influenced youth throughout Europe when it came out, to not only mimic the young protagonist’s wardrobe, especially his “yellow pants” but to commit suicide as well—and a book that influenced the Romantic movement that followed in the next century, with its subjective and passionately individual and rebellious perspective on life and all its “Romantic” possibilities.
MORNING POEM #5—Wanda Phipps, from a series called WAKE-UP CALLS, 66 Morning Poems, this one my favorite, as honest and true and sexy, and descriptive of the whole bohemian artist creative coupling thing, as any I’ve seen
NOMAD FLUTE—Merrill Gilfillan, a short story from the collection SWORN BEFORE CRANES, it epitomizes for me that unfulfilled romantic yearning that now and then is fulfilled by a connection so distant from the usual carnal coupling that it almost passes for something else, but in the end, is just what romantic love is all about I suspect
OUT OF OUR MINDS—George O’Brien, one of my favorite writers, this is the last in an autobiographical trilogy about growing up in Ireland in the 1940s and ‘50s and coming into his own, including romantically, in 1960s “swinging London” in this third volume (the previous two, VILLAGE OF LONGING and DANCEHALL DAYS, I would often open to any page and read a paragraph to some guest I had cornered and declare there was no better prose anywhere)
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE—Robert Nathan’s short achingly romantic novel from the late ‘30s (made into a less successful film in the 1940s)
QUEER NATION—Bobby Miller’s poem manifesto isn’t exactly ‘romantic’ except in the sense that it is full of self love and self acceptance and the romance of that often difficult accomplishment
REUNIONS—Harry E. Northup, not every poem in this collection is a “love poem,” but like his more recent book, RED SNOW FENCE, it includes some of the most humble and poignant love poems to a spouse you’ll find anywhere
SONNETS, THE—Shakespeare, simply the best
TRACY’S TIGER—William Saroyan, this novella is my favorite romantic fable
UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING—Milan Kundera, this famous novel may be his masterpiece, but anything by Kundera is worth reading, to my mind, and everything he writes is realistically “romantic”—or romantically “realistic”
VITA NUOVA, LA—Dante’s mix of love poems and the prose that explains them
WALKING YOUR FARM—Judith Hemschemeyer, another poet no one I know remembers, though her first book, and the only one I ever saw—I REMEMBER THE ROOM WAS FILLED WITH LIGHT—is one of my all time favorite books of poems, others in it more powerful than this small quiet love poem, but all of them memorable to me still, after first reading it over thirty years ago
XXIXB—from “Book Two” of Sextus Propertius’s poems, as translated by Vincent Katz, this one in particular, of his many poems about his mistress Cynthia, captures the essence of a romantic’s inability to resist love no matter how painful it can be at times, or always
YELLOW QUILT—Terry Kennedy, from a short book of poems called BANGALORE BLUE that I received a few years ago out of the blue and was grateful
ZWEITE ELEGIE, DIE—Rainer Maria Rilke’s Second Elegy from the DUINO ELEGIES—my favorite translation is Stephen Mitchell’s—Rilke’s romanticism is so transcendent, yet so deep, and his expression of that so lyrically articulate, he makes most contemporary poets seem arbitrary and weak-minded in comparison, but why compare, even though I just did, and will continue to by saying the resonances from his heart’s perceptions out-poet all of us, to my heart’s mind

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