Human language

Poetry goes to the heart of it

A speaker and graduate student in the University of Miami’s creative writing program explain why poetry is the preferred language of love and how a poem’s vanities help tame this sometimes unruly emotion.



To like. Oh dear. The rapturous feeling that passes through us when we see someone – or something – that ignites our passion, catapults our world, and expands our eyes and heart into a new way of being.

We all know it, we all feel it, but when it comes to expressing that most basic human emotion, like today on Valentine’s Day, we often turn to poets and poetry.

Susan Leary, Lecturer in the Department of English and author of two collections of poetrysuggested that all poetry speaks of the emotion of love.

“Every poem is a love poem, even if love isn’t explicitly central,” she said. “Whatever our subject matter, we want to take great care of it – to make it worthy in our performances. This impulse is love itself.

Poets struggle and very often struggle to find the right words, and Leary has suggested that each poem is, in effect, a love letter to language itself.

“Whatever we want to say, we think, ‘How do we say it best, how do we say it as accurately as we think?’ Poetry comes as close to that wish as possible,” Leary pointed out.

Christell Roach, a graduate assistant in the last semester of her MFA, said that all poetry is conversation and that we use the same language skills, like making similes, similes and metaphors, when we converse.

“Poems mimic conversations — the most intimate conversations we have with ourselves and wish we had with others,” Roach said.

Yet to make a poem ‘sing’, poets emphasize the use of these other skills, such as confidence in using syntax, knowing how to use space on the page, and how to break up a line.

“When it comes to love, emotion, and desire, literary skill is central to the understanding that poems are constructed,” Roach said. “Poems don’t just fall on the page; they are built brick by brick. And having the willingness to take a poem apart to see and examine the pieces is important to truly reading and engaging a poem.

She adds that paradox and conceit, an elaborate or particularly startling supporting metaphor, are important in her poetry, which stems from the black tradition of call and response in music.

“Paradox and conceit invite the reader into the poem, almost like a trick,” she said. “It’s an invitation to see what I see, to see with someone. There is a real difference between seeing what someone sees and seeing with a person.

A poem requires both writer and reader to slow down and literally breathe in the emotions. Leary has long viewed a poem as revenge against time.

“A poem is vengeful in this way, though it enacts that revenge quite beautifully,” she said.

“This is especially true of the love poems I wrote for my husband and my brother. The poems about my husband make me believe, if only briefly, that he and I will be alive forever, while these poems about my brother, who has already passed away, make me believe he is alive again. “, she explained. “Poetry is amazing in that it allows you to say, in infinite ways: I still love you.

Poetry exists in a wide range of forms, and it seems paradoxical that such an unruly beast as love is often best contained in a highly structured form. Some of the most popular and often cited as the “best” love poems are found in the intricately rhymed 14-line sonnet, like Pablo Neruda’s. Love Sonnet XI or Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, 71Where 65.

“Love is often thought of as an emotion of excess and intensity. We just can’t contain it. We have to express it otherwise,” Leary asserted. “With the sonnet, however, we are given a shape for that feeling which helps make it less overwhelming, perhaps more understandable.The sonnet is soothing in that regard.

Today is Valentine’s Day, but maybe not too late to write a poem to someone you love. What suggestions for effort?

Roach stressed the importance of trying to capture the whole person – the good and the imperfections.

“If someone were to write me a love poem, I would want them to tell me more than the things they love because then you flatten me and it becomes a very porous image.”

One of his favorite poems, Celebration of Mari Evans, captures this meaning. Although Roach isn’t sure if it’s a romantic poem, she thinks the impulse to appeal to the whole person speaks to the essence of love.

“Love poems touch the wholeness of a person, and they are poems where the receiver can see their reflection in them. They see the beauty that someone else sees, but also the things that we might want to hide about ourselves, like ‘you chew with your mouth open, and I love that,'” she said. declared.

“When I think of love poems, I think of words like ‘even so’ and ‘despite,’ like ‘I still love you,'” Roach added.

Leary recommended the importance of moving into emotion and focusing on particulars and particularities.

“Love is a version of attention, so start there,” Leary suggested. “Start with observation. Start with detail. Start, simply, with love.