Thursday, February 07, 2008

Blasphemous Thought of the Day

Pablo Neruda is just too....much.

I can't read more than five poems in a row without going "Gah, ack, too much! Too much romance! Stop! I am not your ocean! You are not the waves to my shore!" This is the problem with trying to read an entire collection of Neruda's poetry.

Maybe I'm just getting more cynical and unromantic with age and experience, but in general, love poetry is something that should be taken in small discrete doses. A great love poem here and there, like Robert Graves':

She tells her love while half asleep
In the dark hours
With half-words whispered low
As the earth stirs in its wintry sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.

(apologies for any errors, I'm going off of memory here)

should be enjoyed and deployed cautiously, lest its power be diminished by experiencing it with too much like sentiment. The singularity of the sentiment and its quiet message would be obscured and depreciated if read with too many others expressing even more violent paroxysms of love. This is a poem about falling quietly in love, without the madness. "Truly Madly Deeply" is the title to an awful Savage Garden song (and while we're hatin', this sucks too), not the above lovely poem.

This is why I like collections of Graves' poetry or Robert Creeley's--it's not all love, all the time. Or Stephen Dunn or Philip Larkin. There's very fine poetry out there that is not about love. Most of those poetry collections are bleak and moody, which is the poetry of my preference anyway. And such poetry should be read, and in reading such poetry throws the love poetry into high relief, as emotions are thrown into relief when one is experienced next to its opposite. This is why the best mix tapes are not too maudlin. They can be funny or sexy or thoughtful too. I'd much rather listen to Etta James' "In the Basement" than the overplayed and overcommercialized "At Last."

Much like how saying "I love you" should be said when meant and felt, and not as a default conversation gap filler or end of every phone call "bye." No couch-jumping here.

Not to equate the great Neruda with couch-jumping. But you know, there's only so much I can take.

End of Blasphemous Thought of the Day.*

*I predict a blogfight with my beloved Paul Gowder.


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