EXTENSION 2 BABES.
“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”. 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.”
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”” “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
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.
 A quote from “The Wizard of Oz”, by L. Frank Baum
Noooow, the actual poems!
the science of love
love: noun, verb, adjective
- a profound feeling of attachment, devotion and affection for another person
- attraction based on desire
- the object of affection
- the fatherly concern of god for mankind
- 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
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,
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,
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
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,
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,
broken dreams and
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
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
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
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,
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.
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,
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
breathe out, sigh,
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,
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
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;
you actually wanted me
not just another woman
you could name jezebel.
they will crucify you.
you are not good enough,
just another woman
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…
any second now,
(is this my baptism?)
with one equivocal quiver,
take it all
as we go down, down,
take the atoms
take ‘no’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and-
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,
(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.)
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,
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
-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
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,
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
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,
with a conductor mumbling your name
(or calling you “Lolita”, if he’s that way inclined)
as he disassembles the whole
You stare at the peeling wallpaper,
jaundiced, like you once were
like the bastard you might have, if you aren’t careful.
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
why indeed I love.
It is for the moon and the stars,
and the whispering of trees;
the sunset, when day and night meet.
passion and forgiveness
it is you and me
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