My extension 2 english work =)


“Love, and Other Symptoms of Madness”

Reflection statement (just so you understand it)

What is love? Is it the most basic of all human feelings? The deepest, grandest; most beautiful? Perhaps love is the greatest folly of man; perhaps, what defines the naturally foolish mankind. Or perhaps,

love is a symptom of madness.

the disease is called

humanity. “The Science of Love”

I wanted to investigate and perhaps even come to a personal understanding of just what that crazy thing called “love” is and what it means; and portray this through what I felt was the perfect medium: poetry. But love was not just subject; it was also conduit, as through this concept I explored humanity and life itself. “Madness” here is metaphoric for the state of our human condition; a thunderstorm of tumultuous emotions and thoughts that, like love itself, is often irrational and inexplicable. The character’s follies in matters of love, and their attitudes towards it, are symptomatic of the nature of mankind itself. Thus there is often an allegoric undertone to the poems. They are definitely not just about love, though this is the focal point: a range of issues spring from this one linking concept.

This evolved from an earlier concept in which I looked at four characters, all of whom had different mental disorders, and their perspectives on love and life. This was a very limiting thing to do and despite the extensive research I undertook to understand these different disorders, I still felt alienated from my characters. It became clear that I needed to edit my concept so it would be closer to me, and so I could lend it authenticity, which my first poems lacked. Thus, I have plunged into a highly personal work, refining my concept based on my response to the ideas that I encountered and imagined; while focussing on ideas that are universally appreciated.

Part of my process has been the revisiting of some of my favourite poets including Sylvia Plath, e.e. cummings and Dylan Thomas. Cummings, for example, cemented my resolve to work mainly with freeform, mirroring the chaos of human emotions and love, emphasised by the use of enjambment.

Two of the key texts- the first I encountered in fact- were “Romance” by Arthur Rimbaud, and “Saddest Poem” by Pablo Neruda. These two poems present extremely different visions of love- the first, an ephemeral young romance; the second, a melancholy reflection on love and heartbreak. The contrast of these two poems developed in my mind the idea of the multifaceted nature of love which has been prevalent throughout my work, and helped me reach my final, overriding concept.

The catalyst for this was two articles, both titled “The Science of Love”[1]. These articles seek to explain the phenomena of love in scientific terms.

It feels like love. But the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing.”[2]

The ideas from both of these articles are obvious in “The Science of Love”, a speculative musing which rejects the idea that love can somehow be explained through hormones and science as both impossible and unpalatable. The enigmatic nature of love, however, is apparent in all my poems.

Indeed, this knowledge is what I have gained from doing these poems. Despite presenting a diverse array of facets of the nature of love, and thus life and humanity, I am no closer to understanding any of these. Love is by nature full of ironies and paradoxes, which I portray in my work. The irony of:

“yet the more you understand the sensation of love, the more you realise how little you can really ever understand it.” “The Folly of Love”

and the paradox of:

““Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable[3] “The Science of Love”

reinforce the inexplicable nature of love. It is not something that can be comprehended. Just like the machinations of mankind, love is rarely ruled by reason.

I have looked at not just romantic love- though admittedly this is the focus- but familial. I didn’t just inspect the wonder of love, but the harsh realities, and the variety of often conflicting emotions love can invoke. Thus there is a strong contrast in tone and voice found in the poems. This is blatant in the stark contrast between the hopelessness of “They Called You Lolita”, and the nearly naïve resolve of “The Folly of Love”. The final line,

“I was never too afraid

to love.”

refers not only to an acceptance that love involves a variety of emotions and often leads to heartbreak, but that life offers a variety of experiences, good and bad, and we must take all the opportunities we are given.

The progression of the poems is one of an overwhelming sense of naivety to a sense of disillusionment; but these two opposites coexist within most poems, forming a dichotomy. This dichotomy aids the feeling of the confusion of love, and of life; the way we are constantly gaining new experiences and are forced to change and adapt. Another dichotomy is the idea of belonging and alienation. The close bond between these two opposites was established in our Preliminary Area of Study, “Alienation and Belonging”, which gave me an intimate understanding of how these two coexist.

Another key concept that continues throughout the poems is the desire for freedom. This is most obvious in the poem “Expurgation”, where the character has a desperate desire to escape her marriage, which represents her intense need for spiritual freedom. But instead of trying to flee, she waits, absorbing herself in daydreams.

Other individual poems look at a variety of both universal and topical issues; examples of which include fighting in the home, sexuality, and femininity. Homosexuality is the subject of “Love in a Panic Room”. People hide from an external threat in a panic room; and this is a metaphor for the experience of the character. He is attempting to cope with his homosexuality in a hostile world, and denies his feelings to conform to traditional expectations.

With neither subject matter nor style too esoteric, I believe this work will appeal to a wide audience. The literary quality, such as in the use of allusions, like to “Lolita” or the Bible, and the multilayered meaning reward the intelligent reader but do not exclude significantly. Love is a universal issue, one that is easy to empathise with, and with the variety of issues I hope these poems can strike a chord in a very diverse audience. These poems call on not only an intellectual but an emotional response, as emotion is so strongly imbued in the whole collections, and is an intrinsic component of love.

Indeed, one of the purposes I have is to evoke feeling in the responder. Poetry was the perfect form for this, as it is inherently emotional, and ultimately subjective and evocative. It has always been my choice of medium, as it is something that I have enjoyed reading and writing, and my experience with it in the Preliminary course confirmed my resolve.

The greatest wonder for me of poetry is the demand to find the perfect words; the perfect use of devices to express meaning. One thing that I have definitely gained from Advanced English is an appreciation of these different techniques, which comes especially from the study of Peter Skrzynecki’s poetry. I was immediately enamoured of Skrzynecki’s poetry, and saw many of my own thought patterns in it. The way he expresses his personal issues has had a strong influence on the shape of my major work.

With the tools this study gave me, consolidated by work within other topics, I have come to a more advanced understanding of how to use literary devices effectively. Consequently, I have used a wide variety to effectively express meaning. Figurative techniques like metaphors feature prominently, as well as a range of imagery, including colour imagery, which is prominent in “Expurgation”. I have also stayed true to the individual voice of the poem, both in tone, stream of conscious style, direct speech and use of colloquial language. I used the sonnet form ironically as it is naturally associated with romance, to highlight the disparity between our perceptions of love, and the reality. As well, rhyme is used sparingly, to give a naïve quality.

What is love? I do not know, and I have learnt I never will. But through the presentation of a variety of facets of love, which both represent and complement traits of humankind, I feel I have created a portrait of love. A portrait that is both beautiful and vague; not a photo, but a subjective view. A portrait, too, of life and of humankind.

Noooow, the actual poems!

the science of love

love: noun, verb, adjective

  1. a profound feeling of attachment, devotion and affection for another person
  2. attraction based on desire
  3. the object of affection
  4. the fatherly concern of god for mankind
  5. a score of zero in tennis

The first theory:

if our hearts are the dangerous rapids we threaten to be immersed by; that we become lost in, our brains are just the faulty compass to set us right.

but we never end up on the right track because we are meant to be drowning, meant to be consumed. we keep fighting against the whims of the heart, but it knows far more the brain ever can.

And I write all these things down, all of the theories I have

on love;

all the data I’ve tracked, all the observations

on the science of love,

all the speculation about

what it all means.

I’ve looked at the stages of love,

the chemical reactions of

testosterone and oestrogen

that facilitate lust; that become

attraction, and finally, attachment.

the adrenaline that flow through to our hearts

which pump on the fuel of love.

As a poet, or, a doctor of love

I think I have some authority on the matter

especially the matter of disparate hearts

that send us down those dangerous paths.

I am an authority on the matter of broken hearts

that shatter the soul, the bones,

the life

of the love-lorn.

Love has a high mortality rate

and I do believe what the lion says

“Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable”.

we try to protect them

but then we put them on our sleeves

as we all travel down that yellow brick road

and try to find the home

that is love.

But I suppose a poet is no less a fool

what man said love is short; while oblivion is long?

I’ve never believed

love is ever short.

love is a whole lotta things

[powerful, painful, prodigious, paroxysmal]

but it is not short.

it goes on and on and on; it never stops. never ends.

And another theory:

love is a symptom of madness.

the disease is called


we pick up the pieces again and again and never wonder why there are pieces in the first place

She thinks I’m looking for a messiah

to grow obese on lies

since I’m fixing all the time.

‘you can’t fix what’s broken’

she says with a smile.

But I do not scream out ‘help me’

as I write a stage play

about a nuclear family explosion.

the woman who thinks that she can glimpse god

in the fridge;

who dreams of liberty

in a puff of her cigarette,

a man who sleeps with a cold bottle of vodka

to remind him that he is still alive

(even if sometimes he wonders why he should want to be, as he takes another dose of his medicine).

there are two children who think there is a language

laden with profanities

the punctuation of which is

throwing the dinner plates at the fucker

you’re speaking to;

the heirs to such a household,

to such a disease

so they will spend their lives

picking up the pieces that remain.

They just step over

the fragments that litter their home,

broken shards

all the plates,

the remnants of a chalice, for water,

the bottle of vodka,

the vases that once held flowers,

or the full ashtray;

picking up the pieces that remain.

The story stars a boy

who tries to glue them into place,

or bind them with tape

or just assemble them like

a miss-matched jigsaw

a tolerable picture

though the pieces don’t really fit.

He tries to convince himself-

the whole is merely the sum of parts, what matter

how the (broken) parts are placed?

Bu the cracks are always there

and the crude attempts at fixing

something that is broken,

and all the time saying that it is as good as

what was,

all the sunny days-

it’s growing harder by the cloudy hour.

All the time,

saying that he’s Lazarus, and

picking up the pieces that remain.

So I keep trying to fix it,

I imagine-

Heaven is just happiness away.

I write my memoirs,

with the stars of this insane pantomime

who burn all the pages I try to write.

They don’t understand fixing;

they like their broken world,

all the

broken hopes,

broken dreams and

broken promises-

trying to pick up the pieces that remain

(that you can’t quite grasp).

These wrecking balls.

I call them family


writing romance novels and love songs

you always wanted to be amazing;

you hated the everyday.

I liked you anyway.

you told me “I am lines and script and the sounds of beauty and fury”

and I knew how much you wanted to be

when in reality

you were the diary of a teenager who has a crush and issues.

(after all, you’re full of blank pages and little love hearts.)

You wrote songs

about forever

when all I wanted was today.

and you used to say

love is such a wonderful cliché”

when all I wanted was the everyday.

And you hated when I said things like

I love the colour of your hair

and how you think I’m so special and rare

when I’m like you; you, like me;

and I love how cold you hands always seem to be.

and I love how you talk to yourself like you’re all alone,

though I’m always waiting by the telephone

and when you’re confused, you can’t help but smile,

and when I tell you you’re wrong you get so hostile

and you make me so scared, but you make everything okay.

you make me so happy every single day”

you would kidnap my voice box

staple it to your chest

and swallow pennies and nickels

just to play our song

you said you would sew your fingertips to mine

and we would never part.

we’re not Romeo and Juliet,

or Venus and Eros.

and I love how you dream like there isn’t a sky

and you live like this lasts forever, without a goodbye

and you want to be special, like you think I am,

when the truth is I’m not; but I don’t give a damn.

we’re footnotes in history

but the love is enough for me

implosions are less magnificent

He is a sort of supernova;

a force you can’t reckon with and you can’t help but admire.

And I am just a choirgirl

always teetering on the edge of gravitational collapse.

I love him like he’s my only child

as he’s always running with scissors,

jumping in front of cars,

and sticking forks in toasters;

always under the influence.

He is a sort of volcano

and he always seems to be setting things alight;

I quell the volcano

I extinguish the fires

and I sing lullabies that stop the explosions-

Ring a ring a rosey
A pocketful of posies
ah-tishoo, ah-tishoo.
We all fall down.

and other off-key hymns.

He is the destitute kingdom that

the devil offers; being no lord

I take it every time,

“get behind me Satan” I say, as you forget what words mean

like all the “I love yous”.

I love like he’s gonna kill me

and he might, one day.

But for all his explosions, there is an equally destructive implosion

that keeps us okay.

(love is a sort of black hole;

it is some kind of doom

some form of infinity

something forever

and ever

and ever…)

(two sonnets)

the perfect man

The man I loved was a David with breath;

still marble, crafted by a god divine

to fight Goliath; he did not fear death.

His almond eyes sent shivers up my spine.

A sweet, dapper manner with charm and wit;

a perfect smile, so bright, it seemed to beam.

There was damage I would never admit,

but he was still the star of all my dreams.

Mercy, unrequited love was unkind;

Oh, so many loves and lives in that long time,

oh, for so long, oh, how long I pined

consumed by that man so nearly sublime.

But even perfect marble wears away,

from fair alabaster to dull and grey.

the perfect woman

Her lips are full and red as crimson clouds,

her eyes are of the darkest ebony,

and her hair is a silken soft black shroud;

her skin as clear and smooth as a calm sea.

Yes, her beauty equals Helen of Troy.

Or some siren, beckoning me yonder

with just one smile I was a little boy;

my fragile heart always growing fonder.

And when she left me, I tried to believe.

I still had the memories of the past,

photos, portraits, promises; so naïve-

that I still have the hope she will be my last.

She is my always, and a heart attack:

Will attack my body the day she’s back.

the private war

What bought us together?

I doubt it was divine intervention,

or fate; more likely,

the work of the devil

who set this raging train off the tracks,

unable to be stopped.

There is no conductor, no alarm;

neither of us can escape,

even as our terrified eyes

look at the emergency exits.

Our first date

was neither here nor there,

and it never really got better,

so I wonder how this all came to be, then.

We each wage a private war

of failing diplomacy

and broken agreements.

A war of attrition;

where silence wears us down.

We pour milk over cereal every morning

and avoid each other eyes

because then we might actually ask “what’s wrong”, what

wounds we’ve sustained and

how we might heal them.

Our soundtrack is the muffled sounds

of voices on the television

of the lives we imagine;

the threat of the clash of our weapons

and the crash of our dishes

stacked too high.

We ignore the smell of burning toast,

hate responsibility

fantasise about the neighbours

and throw sombre dinner parties.

It seems so inappropriate to throw a plate

when everything is so carefully arranged.

We’re afraid of arguments

and bruises, and emotions

that might threaten our stack-of-cards home.

We’re afraid of each other,

of what lies beneath the ominous silence

and the “hellos”, the “goodbyes”, the “i love yous”.

We’re afraid of the word ‘talk’,

because once my mother said “we have to talk”

and she was gone the next day; and her ex-husband said the same

when he slapped her in the face

with the divorce papers.

Talk becomes actions,

and what can we do?

But then I remember:

there is no ‘we’

just two people

who built a home out of sticks, laid their eggs,

and are now just waiting for the day

someone flies away.

love in a panic room

There was a man I knew

who learnt new things everyday

never read a textbook-

with his diaphragm and lungs

he had no need for diagrams and guidebooks.

He taught me everything

he’d ever known:

the wisdom, the mistakes.

He knew me like no one had before;

every cell, every molecule.

He felt my marrow

and knew that I would never change.

I said to him:

Let’s go back to cotton-red

the plaid of my favourite dress

all these tattered threads

I’ve used to stitch these old wounds.

“I myself,

was beginning to feel like

all my rights are taking left hand turns

and all my wrongs are rites

but breathe what you believe what you feel,


But outside

they say:

Stay in your panic room, stay inside your home, stay inside your ventricles. You are not a man, not even half a man.

-and I wonder if it might be true

with the

breathe out, sigh,

hyperventilation overdrive,

weather patterns, newspapers,

bible black broadcasts over the bird-wires,

weird words, morphine morphemes,

half-bit propaganda my

Sunday education on Friday night.

I like to sing my

lullabies and good nights and goodbyes.

There are no good mornings

just the sound of silence,

of emptiness,

of secrets.

And maybe tomorrow I’ll stop salvaging sunken ships,

old marine drunks and dirty mouth sailor men,

picking up boys who don’t know any better;

the boys who wander, the boys who wonder.

But my bones are saying I will never change.


and they’re all the same,

when you go past the smiles, the words,

down to the bones

we’re all the same:

desperate, naked, alone.

but we never evolved.

on our wall hangs a sabre hide

and his womb (even now, that’s all a woman is.

a pair of ovaries;

and if you took them out

she’d still weigh the same;

if you distilled her veins

you’d feel everything

swim away)

she has given everything

any woman can give

and still now we give

and give, and give

and the world takes even more,

until we are left with just our hides.

we are left with memories;

all the memories of the bootees

we knit from our discontent;

and hooker heels that never fit.

all the words they ever told us,

all the names (slut) they ever called us.

the crux is words,

like everything: words

and so we crucify ourselves;

tell me,

you actually wanted me

not just another woman

you could name jezebel.

they will crucify you.

you are not good enough,

just another woman

named jezebel.

and all the time I wanted to be a Jesus,

and I was just a Jezebel.

Now upside down, you with me,

and we just keep swimming…

swimming, swimming,

any second now,


(is this my baptism?)

with one equivocal quiver,

surreptitious surrender;

take it all

as we go down, down,

take the atoms


take ‘no’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and-

suffocating under

the tremendous weight

of the ocean

-take it all away

and of all the words, all the names;

it’s his engraved on my heart,

and my forehead;

his in red.

he had a heart for me, he said.

but he took everything I had left.

was he so desperate, so naked,

so alone?

(I needed it,

and I found it wasn’t a substitute for love;

but I felt like a real woman,

and I felt beautiful,

and I felt wanted,

and it felt alright, I guess.)

smiles, words, bones

but we never evolved.

(hahaha, oh man, showing this poem to mundy and explaining its about losing your virginity… AWKWARD. nah he’s cool.)

hysterical blindness

the phantom in front of your eyes, a lie,

a liar like I,

like my love.

– the one i was waiting for

to take me


to save me

from grey life

like the dumb leads the blind,

fool and false prophet entwined

like the fools; the kids, who want to tame the sky

so will I.

I want you to be

like it’s the summer, 1969,

life, just a corrugated iron roof

on a hot day.

life, dancing like no one was watching

life, you and me, and our youth

sliding away, a cat running from its tail.

(perhaps I was the cat, you the bird, or we were sparrows and I wasn’t living with you, just occupying the same cage, that’s all.)

hearts like eyes

they never grow;

wings that never stretch.

and a life that does, like a road

(may we one day traverse together?)

life is like a blank canvas

a painting not painted

a song never sung

caught in our voice-box,


it is always just a short story

without the neat and tidy end

you’ve come to expect.


I can still feel you

beside me. I can still hear the music

I used to hear when you were near.

Was our love mere monologue

when it felt so much like a great opera?

If my heart is not broken, it has been left in Venice.

I feel the sharp pain in my chest, piercing, shattering,

my breath caught.

I left a piece of my soul to St. Peter

(or was it a curse to Venus?)

I rent the rest to saints no one has ever heard of,

the love ersatz.

But it’s you, amore ti amo, it’s you,

I waited for so long, for you,

to save me.


the watercolour sunset bleeds from red to yellow

out the window, the horizon seems so near.

the days seem longer as each passes,

hotter, too. the days are heavy,

weighing on the mind every hour, every minute,

every second. weighing down my eyelids,

painted up with charcoal.

i close them, in the hopes

that the kitchen, the colour of mildew

the lounge suit, the colour of some long dead flower, and

our whole damn shack,

will disappear.

but no, i am never lost.

my husband is a lead weight beside me

living his life in black and white,

he looks like a smokestack most days,

sounds like an ape. at night, he sounds like he’s going to die in three years.

maybe he will. i’ll be the grieving widow for a few days

but i’d know my husband died many years ago

i could have gone with him, over that cliff

named resignation

-but i’m alive.

i’m living, i’m breathing, i’m thinking, i’m planning,

all while i’m simmering, slowly,

feeling days slipping away.

he’ll never know

i have another life. it plays through like a film,

in slow motion and muted colours,

where i’m a star. i’m an actress, you know.

my husband doesn’t.

he likes to keep me locked in this cocoon of a home

trapped like a wild animal in a cage

teetering at the edge of patience

and sanity.

he chips away at the edges of my dignity

and self respect,

and my hope

but i will never break.

he doesn’t know i have had many lovers, his friends and strangers. they see

what he doesn’t. the make up i paint on, the red lips, the delicate dresses,

so carefully selected. they know my eyes are blue

because they see them.

and they see how, even if my mouth turns up,

my eyes never smile.

life rarely turns out the way we plan,

or the way we dream when we’re kids, and we think everything

is possible. and even when we think we’re adults,

we still wonder

what could have been if only,

if only…

we dreamed a little longer,

tried a little harder,

and didn’t marry the first man who said you were pretty.

‘cause then you realise,

the man is blind, deaf and dumb anyway;

and an ogre, who only wants a princess

for show.

maybe one day i’ll escape.

maybe one day i’ll live the technicolour film

after writing the prologue for too long.

they called you ‘lolita’

A carcrash of limbs,

a trainwreck

with a conductor mumbling your name

(or calling you “Lolita”, if he’s that way inclined)

as he disassembles the whole

into parts.

You stare at the peeling wallpaper,

jaundiced, like you once were

like the bastard you might have, if you aren’t careful.

You wonder,

is this all there is?

You’ve never read a poem

or one of those romances

you once loved

that names the pain or

the feeling that you might never be clean or

the way his eyes look at you.

and you know what you should do,

and you know that you know too much.

You too are a poet who knows three hundred ways to say-


but cannot describe the rising feeling in your stomach

as he pounces on you, like a lion on a gazelle

with only her pride wounded.

So you count the pages in your diary,

the springs in your bed,

the bruises on your skin;

you count sheep at nights

or the roses on your walls

or the countless men-

you’d rather forget.

And you wonder why

love is such a dirty word

no one wants to hear.

Or you wonder if

you’ll always be waiting

for a Prince Charming

or a bolt from the sky

to catalyse the reaction

that people call life.

Once, it was all simple. A watercolour portrait,

all fucked now, all colours

like a Rorschach explosion.

But life is just one damn thing after another,

someone once said, and you’ll tell the middle-class man

you married at twenty

(who seems as charming as any Prince you could bear).

He doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t see

the ghosts resting behind your eyes-

and you tell your therapist, then you ask:

is this it?

(this has to be my favourite… i don’t know, i just feel this one so much)

the folly of love

yet the more you understand the sensation of love, the more you realise how little you can really ever understand it.

You say only fools believe that there

is a thing called ‘love’;

and I agree.

Every man is a lover

(alone or not)

and no man is not a fool.

And if only fools let their hearts

be open to the heavy hands of lovers

(especially with a strong grip on such a

delicate little thing);

but I have never been afraid of heartbreak and

I like to make mistakes

because I’d never learn otherwise,

and I’d rather know the wrong turns

than never take the right one

that could lead to something better.

I don’t know where love will actually lead me

and I know my heart is no sensible guide.

Because it makes so little sense.

But I wouldn’t love if I could express

so simply

why indeed I love.

It is for the moon and the stars,

and the whispering of trees;

the sunset, when day and night meet.

Love is

passion and forgiveness

it is you and me

becoming us.

If I said “I love you”

I could take “no” or

whatever you might throw at me

because I know at least

I was a fool but

I was never too afraid

to love.


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