Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Love Please!

My Dream

This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

Believe it or not, that's Ogden Nash. With all that restraint and stillness, gentleness and simplicity, that's really, truly Nash. I've read a decent degree of Nash. Or so I'd thought till I stumbled upon this one in a lovely anthology of a hundred passionate love poems that I denied and protested my way into for a Christmas present.

The selections range from early 15th century anonymous and raunchy poetry to G.M. Hopkins, Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, and Stevie Smith. There's also John Donne, Robert Graves, and William Blake. All in all, a reasonably wide and distinguished circle of choice.

However, some selections are not the best ones for specific poets. For example, the Robert Herrick entry is Upon Julia's Clothes. Surely you're joking, Mr Briggs!

For a poet like Herrick who wrote predominantly about sexuality, or more accurately the erotic, in love, this is a dismal, disappointing choice. Indeed, anyone who's ever read more than To The Virgins... knows that a large number of Herrick's other works are more worthy of inclusion than this one.

I have the same complaint about the Philip Larkin, which I should inform you is Annus Mirablis. I also have some gripes about the general politics of anthologising and perception—Briggs should have put in some other poets, more women poets, blah, blah.

Despite having grumbled my way here, I should also say I love the book—not only for the wonderful, if sometimes misguided, selection of poems but also for the superb production quality. The illustrations, by Suzanna Hubbard, are simplistic but beautiful, and printed on paper that's a pleasure to slide through your fingers.

Let me share this with you then, another beautiful gem from the same book.

i like my body

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you quite so new

I was an impressionable teenager when I decided that e e cummings was magnificently sublime and had written one of the greatest love poems ever. How could I not, confronted with such desire?

Eight years later, after experiencing this particular poem e vestigio, I find that I don't think much differently.


gd said...

I quite agree with you about Herrick and Larkin. I think Larkin's 'Is It For Now or For Always' is infinitely more beautiful. Or even 'Talking in Bed'. And Herrick - god, he's got a hundred better poems. If I'm not mistaken, 'Upon Julia's Clothes' was tame enough to be in some school or junior college text book.
But hey... thanks for the Nash! It's absolutely wonderful. I've never read anything like it. And for cummings - it's been years since I read either of those. And also, thanks for the wonderful post!

Nocturne said...

right. everyone else has borrowed and abused your books, it's about time i got to sniff one too. mail it to me pronto.

[is it just me, or are the word verifications running up to 9 alphabets lately? "akyabhmna" anyone?]

Parth said...

What about the love poems of Pablo Neruda? I found them very good, he stretches the boundaries of common imagination.

Extempore said...

@GD: *big smile* You're quite welcome, love.

@Nocturne: Coming straight at you, my dear. But pray tell, where did the Lit student go when reading this post? Nothing on the "literary-ness"? :P

@Parth: Neruda's simply superb, I agree. There's just so many of his that make you shiver and melt! You should try Borges if you liked Neruda. This collection was about English poets, given that the compiler is an English professor of English! :-)

{illyria} said...

i fell in love with cummings, too. and this poem was the first hook that lured me deeper. thanks for reminding me. :)

e said...

I agree, completely, about cummings - even before clicking on the link it was so evident which poem it was you spoke of.