Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What time is love...

So I promised love and sex, didn't I? OK. Let's start with love.

I've written quite a lot of love poems – well, who hasn't? I've written about love affairs (successful and less so) and I've written about unrequited feelings and I've written about loving all kinds of people and things and concepts. I will admit it - I enjoy writing about love in all its many stages and forms and I have been, generally speaking, a big fan of love for most of my life (and here I'm talking about love in the widest sense - romantic but also passions, whims, addictions). I have thrown myself in headfirst, feetfirst and pretty much anything-you-like-to-think-of-first in many different situations and with regard to romantic love in particular...well, let's just say...I've given it plenty of attention. I've no doubt spent a lot of energy on love affairs that I could have been spending on building a successful career in something (anything...) but still, we make our choices, don't we? And then we live with them.

So why write so much about love? I think I just can't help it. You might remember that a few months ago I was, suitably, in love with the new CD from the band Chumbawamba (it's called 'The Boy Bands have won'). It really is a great album and quite different from anything they've done to date. There's a song about Larkin, you might remember me mentioning, but there's also a song on it called 'Sing about love' (the link will take you to the lyrics). It is a great song but I can't agree with the sentiment, no matter how hard I try. I know there is a lot going on in the world that needs attention but that never makes me want to stop thinking or writing about love. I know what they mean (and in some ways I agree with them) but then I do still sing about love (in poems and in songs) and I probably always will. I write about all sorts of other things too (I have a kind of vague ambition to write about everything, somehow, some time...) but I couldn't leave love out – it's so vital! In a way I can't help feeling what would be the point of writing poetry and NOT writing about love? It is such a fascinating subject, so loose, so changeable, so like poetry in a way. People are always trying to define poetry too aren't they, trying to pin it down, trying to find formulae for it (but they never will). Such is love, don't you think? Isn't that partly what makes it so desirable (and frustrating...)?

So maybe I'm a every sense...Byron always seems perfectly reasonable to me, after all. But these days if you're female and talk wildly about love (as I do sometimes) people tend to think your brain is mush and that all you want to do is read a lot of love stories or watch a lot of very bad love stories on film. In fact it's quite the opposite - I may be female and a bit mental but I assure you I do not watch non-stop 'rom-coms'. Formula films of any kind bore me really...if a film isn't going to surprise me in some way I'm not interested...and some of you know exactly how I feel about the Richard Curtis school of regurgitated romance ('Love Actually' being the lowest of low points – Thompson/Rickman excepted). The last film about love I enjoyed was Richard Linklater's 'Before Sunset' (partly because of the music). That film really thinks about love (though it probably helps if you have seen the not-really-so-good prequel 'Before Sunrise'). They talk an awful lot though (be warned) and not a lot happens...and yet it does. It's magic, you see...

I am also aware that all this talk of love and passion and 'poetry is like love' can be a bit vague and waffly and annoying for some of you logical, scientific thinkers. Sorry about that but really...come on...if we all agreed and thought the same wouldn't life be dull? Like a bad marriage? Not that I've ever been married...but you know what I mean. As I said not long back I've never wanted to be married but at the same time that has never stopped me being interested in finding something like true love. Despite being in many ways a sensible realistic, even cynical girl I have always believed (just to be awkward) that there would be a special someone who would be perfect for me – not a prince or even a husband but a someone, for sure. Along the way to my current beloved (and we have been together about eleven and a half years) there were, in fact, lots of other special someones (and some of them read this blog...awkward pause). Things did not work out with these someones for all the usual reasons – circumstances, incompatibilities or just because the other person was an idiot. Now and again I was the idiot too (hard to believe, I know).

But back to poems...I can't say I've ever sent poems out as part of a love campaign or anything like that (my own poems or anyone else's) and in fact, though I could list my favourite love songs from now till New Year, I don't really read much love poetry as such. Probably my favourite poem that mentions love (so far) is Larkin's 'An Arundel Tomb'. I'd be interested to hear your favourite poems that are in any way to do with love (especially, but not only, if they are less well-known ones). And plenty of poets read this too so maybe some of you might share your own love poems with us (links or poems... if they're not too long to fit in the comments boxes).

Of my own love poems people have liked 'Free love' and 'Diving' and 'Let me be your fridge magnet' (which is really about writing...and desperation...and love can be so desperate...hence the marriage of themes...). Also one person liked 'All in the tone' so much she read it out as part of a tour round the USA (she's a singer). All those poems are on the website under 'love' but I'm going to post a different one here today. The poem below is quite an old one – one of the first I wrote once I'd started concentrating on poetry instead of stories and articles and other stuff. It is about quite a corny subject – the old falling-in-love-with-tasty-foreign-bloke-while-away-on-gap-year business – except of course when it happens to you it isn't is AMAZING. I spent a year in Madrid and fell in love (at 19) with a Chilean man of about 25. The 'chileno' of the title is Spanish for Chilean man and you just say it chi-lay-no with the accent on the 'lay' (interestingly enough). He was older, wiser, a sort-of political exile (there are always lots of different levels of exiledom) and he was really very attractive (partly of course because he was nothing like the boys I had known in Middlesbrough growing up). He had read lots of books too – political theory even (and I was very impressed by that in those days). There were problems (his girlfriend for one...) but it was still a very exciting love affair and I very nearly didn't come home at the end of the year such was my devotion. Then in the end I did because, as I say, I'm a romantic AND a realist...and I had noticed that the girlfriend was still...the girlfriend and I was most likely the daft-but-to-him-at-least-tasty-foreign-girl-who'll-be-going-home-soon. Over 20 years on I don't regret any of it (though I did learn one lesson - I never got involved with anyone ever again who already had a partner of any kind). I had had plenty of previous entanglements and encounters but this was probably my first big love affair (with a capital L). I cried a lot when I came home...weeks and weeks of tears!

So here's my 'chileno'. It isn't in any particular I say it is one of my older poems and I wasn't even thinking about what I was doing – I was just writing, quite literally, from the heart. I love it as it is (faults and all) so I'm not going to change it now. I suppose if you wanted to call it 'randomly cut up prose' or something you probably could but you see I wouldn't care...because I sing about love...

And thanks to the KLF for the title to this post. I love them too.


Chileno on my mind

Hand in hand firmly
We walk
Through the medieval setting of the city
A touch on the flat-footed side
You walk meaningfully
Each step placed exactly
In place
The afternoon sun as ever
Makes walking hard
Makes buying ice-creams almost
A necessity

To treat you
Is all I want to do

Your smiling
Charming eyes
The sun to me
At 19
Have nothing to do with balls of hydrogen
Mean simply warmth and happiness
And lucky skin that gains a glow
You walk with me
Man made of sun
You walk with me
But never really see me
As I see you

RF about 1997 or so


Marion McCready said...

'man made of sun' - I really like that! Anna Akhmatova is, to me, the greatest love poet. I adore her poems on a par with Plath. Many of the poems from her first two collections are really quite sensual, take this one for instance -


My feather brushed the top of the carriage.
I glanced into his eyes.
My heart ached, not really
knowing why.

The evening was windless and fettered by sadness
under the firmament's vault of clouds,
and the Bois de Boulogne looked as if it were drawn
in India ink in some old album.

There's an odor of petrol and lilacs,
quiet listens expectantly...
with a hand almost not trembling
once again he touched my knees.

Rachel Fox said...

Glad you like 'man made of sun' sounds like something you'd write, doesn't it? Maybe we have more in common poetically than we think! The sun references have an extra meaning - my current Beloved taught me almost everything I know about planets and stars (I knew very little before...I didn't quite think the moon was cheese but it wasn't far off that).

I've never read this poem aloud anywhere but of course the sun could also be son...and can you believe I've never thought about that before today?? Strange the obvious things we fact maybe I shouldn't have admitted that! I do often think when people are saying 'obviously the poet uses this in such and such a way...' - how do you KNOW that's what they were thinking? Maybe they used the word/phrase etc in a quite different way...maybe they were thinking about cheese...

I still have that book of Akhmatova in Russian...waiting for the day when I go back to Russian with some new energy and brain power. It is one of the most beautiful languages...but a lot harder than Spanish (plus I never spent a year there). Maybe when Small Girl leaves home I might get to it...I would like to go to Russia and see how it's changed since last I was there (1989).

Have you written anything you would call a love poem? I can't remember one...but that might be me being thick.

Colin Will said...

When I was a young man my romantic ambition was to fall in love with a woman I would live with for the rest of my life. So far, it's lasted more than 40 years. Here's a stanza from a poem I wrote in the 1990s:

I will still be here, still,
constant in my centre,
you in my core, and I in yours,
no better calming needed,
no livelier partner in life's several storms.

Rachel Fox said...

How I like that word 'still' and they way you use it. What is the poem called?

Interestingly that word 'still' will be significant in the poem in my next post...connections, connections...

Rachel Fox said...

Sorry...'the' way not 'they'! Getting carried away with all this talk of love.

Colin Will said...

The poem's called The Forecast, and it was published in Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Highlands.

Anonymous said...

One of my favourites .. It was always clear that you still thought very fondly of your 'man made of sun' and the poem summed it all up beautifully, I thought.

Rachel Fox said...

That's very nice of you to say so. What grown-ups we are, eh?

Marion McCready said...

Yes, it's something I'd liked to have written!
I've written a few love poems but most of them are in the long arduous process of submission right now so I can't type them here.
However the poem I had published in Qarrtsiluni this year is a hint of a love poem, here's the link -

Marion McCready said...

As a side note, I fell in love with my husband when I was 15 (he was 21), got engaged when I was 16 and married a week after my 18th birthday because my mother insisted I waited till I was 18. We've had our ups and downs but this year will be our 13th wedding anniversary and I'm hoping we'll match colin's impressive record.

Anonymous said...

"What grown-ups we are, eh?"

I hope to be one day ..

Rachel Fox said..., we have lived different lives! I'm glad I didn't settle down with any boys I knew at 15! I can't even imagine what it's like to be with someone who knew you as a teenager...I don't even know many friends from back then anymore (I've moved about quite a bit).

I looked at your poem. I like 'the water blossom/of your eyes'. So the eyes have it, it seems...

It's funny the 'man made of sun''s such a simple little phrase and yet look at all the attention it's getting. I like that. Simple can be powerful, can be meaningful, can be huge!


hope said...

I think the last 3 lines are so telling of a young girl in love...what a girl wants to see vs. reality. Nicely done..thanks for sharing the backstory, which often helps with "a-ha!" moments. Can't wait for this "series" to continue. :)

Need to go read sorlil's poem. I met my husband when I was 16. I remember once telling the senior citizens I work with that I'd married the boy I'd kissed at 16 and one of them groaned. I was expecting a lecture on being sentimental but she shuddered and said, "I was just thinking about the boy I kissed at 16..yuck!" :) Hubby is only a year older but we waited until I graduated from college to get married. Keep going's been 28 years for us and I STILL wouldn't trade him.

Rachel Fox said...

Goodness me...Sorlil, Colin, Hope...all you lot found your true loves so quick! I think my...erm...colourful past might shock some of you. I'm terrified enough of the sex post to come as it is...


The Weaver of Grass said...

Quite a mature poem you wrote here Rachel as a young woman - you were certainly a realist when it came to the relationship not being long-term.

Rachel Fox said...

I wasn't that young when I wrote it...I was 30 (or thereabouts) so I'd had a fair bit of time (about 11 years) to think about the whole thing and see it for what it was.

swiss said...

love poems. i can do those! my favourites, off the top of my head are either this one
or this one
ah, even reading them now makes me go all misty eyed! lol

and while i'm not shy of writing or reading a love poem the one that i haven't really got to grips with is the writing about my daughter. a fact which i'm certain she's very grateful about

Jim Murdoch said...

I think that one of the hardest things to do is write a half-decent poem about love. Most of mine although sincere have been amongst my poorest offerings. In fact in general I do very badly with poems based on positive emotions. That said, I have written a few that are not bad. See what you think of this one.

The Power of Love

Love is a straight line -
it gets right to the heart of things.

Love squared is expansive -
it covers a multitude of sins.

Love to the power of three is deep -
it takes time to explore.

Give me your hand
and don't be afraid.

12 June 1994

(For Jeanette)

Rachel Fox said...

I'm so glad I did this post! It's just great to get all your comments and poems....a love fest indeed! I couldn;t do this every day but doesn't it feel marvellous to do it now and again?

Swiss - I like the wind blowing section especially (except is that 'new' a typo for 'news' or is it meant to be as it is?). And Octavio Paz...Spanish is the one language (besides English) that I can probably still manage to really read poetry in. I will have to go and find that one in Spanish (and after all if you want a language for love...Spanish is hard to beat). You can ask for a bag of vegetables in Spanish and it sounds like a love letter.

And Jim. I'm so happy to see a love poem from you! When it started it made me smile (oh my god, the maths of love!) but you turned it round at the end with those tender two last lines. It works fine - hah! It's lovely...gentle...surprising.


Jim Murdoch said...

Why so surprised? I can be tender. Big saftie I am even if I do frown all the time.

Rachel Fox said...

I meant the poem is surprising in that it starts one way and ends another (which I like). I'm glad you a big saftie though. I do know it (but I sometimes forget it when I get a gruff comment or two!).

Rachel Fox said...

Missed an 'are' there. Me hearties.

swiss said...

good spot onthe news!

you'll be toiling to find this in spanish so seeing as you're not everbody here it is

you can't get his collected works other than second hand at the moment tho there is a selected poems available. don't know if this is in it tho

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks for that Swiss - much appreciated. I will find quiet time later today and sit (with dictionary) and probably moan about the translation. The title for a start...only joking...I never worked as a translator...too lazy, too distracted, too frustrated by the whole process of translation and its limits. Do you speak Spanish then? Are you Swiss? What languages do you speak? Mine are - English (native), Spanish (good but a little rusty), French (school - bit rusty), German (school, bit of aupairing in Austria - now rusty) and Russian (started too late, never got properly into it...wish I had now...never even got chance to get rusty).

Dave King said...

I have always found writing love poems the hardest thing to do, but you have managed it excellently well. I enjoyed reading them. Thank you.

Rachel Fox said...

Why Mr Dave King I do declare...if you keep writing lovely comments like this I may have to write a love poem about you!

swiss said...

i used to speak spanish a bit, tho i wouldn't claim i was ever very good at it. i picked up some basics when i was in the states and went to spanish school in guatemala after that. so while i'm not too bad with the latin spanish, castilian spanish can leave me a bit flummoxed, esp in the south.
i spoke french up to the exam for foreigners thing they do so i guess i was reasonable at that for a while but living in scotland and particularly when i left edinburgh i didn't have anyone to speak to so that was the end of that. i struggle with the tv now!
not much else, a smattering of italian, i can understand a bit of swedish but really can't speak it tho i'm supposed to be improving that and having a go at polish which, so far, has proved impenetrable!

and no, i'm not swiss, well not nationality wise anyway

Rachel Fox said...

Now you see you really are a man of mystery! In what sense are you swiss then? Something to do with rolling?

And are you Scottish, English, North American...a mixture? You don't have to answer...but please do or I may die of curiosity. I am a bit nosey like that...interested in people, can't help myself.

hope said...

Pssst's not "nosy", it's curiosity. ;)

Art Durkee said...

Ono no Komachi

I long for him most
during these long moonless nights.
I lie awake, hot,
the growing fires of passion
bursting, blazing in my heart.

Yosano Akiko:

Raindrops continue
to fall on white lotus leaves.
While my lover paints,
I open the umbrella
on his little boat.

Octavio Paz:

With eyes closed
you light up within
you are blind stone

Night after night I carve you
with eyes closed
you are frank stone

We have become enormous
just knowing each other
with eyes closed

Jean Valentine:

He said,

"When I found where we had crashed, in the snow, the two of us,
alone, I made a plan. It takes all my energy to like it.
The trees keep thinning, and the small animals.
she swims over me every night like warmth, like my whole life
going past my eyes. She is the sleep they talk about, and some days
all I can want is sleep."

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Art. Good to see you as always. I like the Paz here - enormously.

Art Durkee said...


Love poems are one of the hardest to pull off, because there's such a fog os sentiment, cliché, and stock phrases that stand in for real feelings. I posted this set, only one of which is an English-language original, to provide some alternate viewpoints.

Octavio Paz was one of my favorite writers. His essays on art and literature are most valuable, but his poetry itself is sublime. One of the greats of the 20th C., and still far too few know of his work.

I've written a lot of erotic poems, but not too many love poems. Other reasons for that, too, of course.

Rachel Fox said...

It is true about Paz not being so well-known. I studied literature in Spanish and, though I knew who he was, we didn't read any as part of the syllabus.

As for matters erotic...I'll be getting to that later in the week so hold that thought, as it were. And I am going to really struggle to keep my innuendos under control in the next post, I can tell you.

Anonymous said...

I like the poem. Great last five lines.

I'm with you on 'Arundel Tomb', which might actually make it as my favourite poem, if forced to choose at gunpoint.

Rachel Fox said...

Then you have great taste, Dick, great taste!