Well, it’s Valentine’s Day , so it seems a good day to post some love poetry. That concept always takes me back to something I read back in 2002 in an interview with Jenaro Talens in the El País literary supplement under the headline “Toda poesía es poesía de amor”. Although I don’t have the original newspaper any more, at the time I made a rough translation of the phrase that leapt out at me:
“All poetry is love poetry. But not in the conventional romantic approach; rather as seen in the impulse of desire towards an otherness…”
I think that probably links to the old saying that there’s a fine line between love and hate: if you hate something you feel a kind of passion for it, and even though the feeling is negative, it’s intense enough to be important.
Most of my poems are based in the real world – note that I don’t mean the true world, but a real world that’s essentially the same as the one I live in, with the same plants, animals, weather and human nature. And, although it’s not very British to admit to strong feelings, I probably do feel quite passionate about the world.
The poem below, though, is more romantic than passionate, but that’s appropriate given how, in the western world, today is mostly dedicated to romantic love.
Things I do
when you’re not here: I stay up
half the night with Marlowe,
Smiley and other men
you don’t approve of, trying to find
distraction in their mysteries.
When I do sleep, I lie
on your side of the bed
so when I wake, it’s me
who’s missing. I talk about you
to the cat and hope
she won’t forget. I binge
on carbohydrate comfort foods then worry
about gaining weight. Feeling sorry
for the single cup and saucer
on the draining board, I let
the washing-up pile high
to keep them company. I wear
the last T-shirt you wore
before you left, its fibres impregnated
with your memory; then I pretend
that sleeves are arms
and that you hold me
while I sleep.
(This poem appeared in the anthology Outbox and other poems published by Leaf Books)