Greatest Love Poem in the World

Appropriately for February, we’re looking at love poems, starting with lost love then enduring love. Now it’s time for the Greatest Love Poem in the World.

What should love be?  Insta-Lust?  No, love is lasting.

Weak when faced with problems?  No, love is strong.

Selfish and self-focused?  Love is mutually focused.

True love is integral to the soul.  It colors and brightens our world and gives us guidance in the other spheres of life, helping us survive the professional slog and the communal drivel.  It gives potential to the elements necessary for growth and abundance.

This poem expresses all of that.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Personally, cummings is one of the few poets who still intrigues me.  This poem is proof that he is more than the gimmick of unusual punctuation and capitalization.

What does the poem say?

Speech and thought go hand in hand, side by side, just as a couple should.  “Whatever is done by me” is not me alone.  The other half of the whole contributes just as much, just not in the same way.  Each powers the other, even when each is alone in the brutal world.

They are destined, fated, to be together.  The moon of romance and the sun of living are intrinsically within each other for each other.

The power of the third stanza is the meaning carried beyond the words.  The nourishing and spreading root, the blossoming and nectar-filled bud, the over-arching and all-covering sky—these represent love and still do not say it all.

Love is wondrous and inexplicable.  cummings’ word choice calls upon us to figure out the riddling miracle that can never quite be untangled from its mystery.

Line structure plays its own part in that riddling mystery. 

Why is “i fear” on a line alone and thrown to the right side? Is it intended to join the two equal stanzas?  That is what love does:  it joins two equal and independent selves and sets them on a journey forward, together.

Alone in the world, a person does fear.  Linked with another, we “fear no fate”.  Yet why is that line thrown to the right?  To be rightly joined—is that the answer?  To be not “unequally yoked” but rightly joined.  That’s logical.

Punctuation gives more meaning.

cummings pares his punctuation down to parentheses (6 uses), two semicolons, four commas, and two apostrophes.  Is he “speaking to us” with these marks?

Commas link.  Okay, that’s easy to connect to the meaning.

Semicolons link equal and independent statements.  That echoes the linkage of the first two stanzas, rightly and equally joined.

Parentheses are for additional information not considered necessary but deemed by the writer as needing to be added.  Wow.  Just—wow.

Apostrophes—both contractive, not possessive.  Oh, my.  Love brings two people together, yet neither “owns” the other.  They remain equally independent, together by choice.  Not necessary to each other but needed by each other. 

That’s—that’s—well, I did not see it truly until I examined it.

Yes, the Greatest Love Poem

cummings certainly has more going on than a gimmick—and his explanation of a heart-filled relationship is the definition of love.

Coming Up

The Greeks have four separate words for love, each expressing a different type.  We’ll examine these in the next post, March 5th.  Join us.

Resolutions

For poetry lovers, we have a blog series called Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by M.A. Lee.  Visit our page on the 5ths (day 5, 15, and 25) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing. We’ll intersperse news about titles from Writers Ink as necessary.

Our first lesson is Don Marquis’ “Lesson of the Moth”.

The New Year:  a time of reflection, of re-charging, of resolving.

Whenever we analyze our lives, we consider our dreams and strive to turn those dreams into goals.

On my wall I have these Resolutions: “Dream.  Believe.  Do.”

What are Your Resolutions?

In “Lesson of the Moth,” the philosophizing bug archy also considers dreams.  As a bug, archy can’t use the shift key to create capital letters, and he ignores punctuation.  Read on to see what archy learned from another bug.

The Lesson of the Moth

i was talking to a moth

the other evening

he was trying to break into

an electric light bulb

and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows

pull this stunt i asked him

because it is the conventional

thing for moths or why

if that had been an uncovered

candle instead of an electric

light bulb you would

now be a small unsightly cinder

have you no sense

plenty of it he answered

but at times we get tired

of using it

we get bored with the routine

and crave beauty

and excitement

fire is beautiful

and we know that if we get

too close it will kill us

but what does that matter

it is better to be happy

for a moment

and be burned up with beauty

than to live a long time

and be bored all the while

so we wad all our life up

into one little roll

then we shoot the roll

that is what life is for

it is better to be a part of beauty

for one instant and then cease to

exist than to exist forever

and never be a part of beauty

our attitude toward life

is come easy go easy

we are like human beings

used to be before they became

too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him

out of his philosophy

he went and immolated himself

on a patent cigar lighter

i do not agree with him

myself i would rather have

half the happiness and twice

the longevity

but at the same time i wish

there was something i wanted

as badly as he wanted to fry himself

                                              archy

Don Marquis’ Resolutions with Free Verse

The structure of this poem helps to emphasize Marquis’ words.  And I’m not talking about his gimmick with archy.  Sometimes writers resort to gimmicks to get their ideas to the public, and Marquis certainly caught the public’s attention with his buggy archy and unusual capitalization and punctuation, much as e.e. cummings did.

What structure am I talking about?

The beauty of free verse is how lines can be manipulated to focus on certain words.

In stanza 2, the anaphora for “and crave beauty / and excitement” helps emphasize the moth’s desire.

Touches of alliteration throughout keep us focused on that desire: “close / kill”, “be / burned / beauty”, “live / long” and “be / bored” and “better / beauty”.

The reversed anastrophe “come easy go easy” reinforces the moth’s backward thinking:  he doesn’t think like humans do now but as humans “used to”.

Contrasting “half the happiness and twice / the longevity” through the math of the line returns us to the logical human way of looking at things.

Yet look at the last stanza, specifically the two lines that end with “i wish / i wanted”.  Here is archy’s own desire, cast at the end of the line.

“Lesson of the Moth” looks simple, but it is carefully crafted.

Play with anaphoras, alliteration, and anastrophes as you write both free verse and pure verse.  Your poems will tighten up structurally as well as begin to focus your ideas.

Having trouble with your poetry? If you swore a resolution to improve your writing style, do check out Discovering Sentence Craft. This handy guidebook covers ideas both figurative and interpretive as well as structures like inversion, opposition, repetition, and sequencing. Find it here: