Friday, February 4, 2022

Wanted: New Words

Since Eskimos are said to have forty-seven words for snow why do we have so few for two of my favorite words, poetry and love? I’ve always considered it ironic that poets have not discovered a blizzard of other nuanced words to describe their own art form.

Verse has a pre-twentieth century feel to it. It suggests to me, rhyming lines inadmissible to contemporary ears. There needs to be a language distinguishing John Ashbery’s work from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s or Emily Dickinson from Charles Bukowski.

Love may be the most imprecise and misunderstood word of all. We can love a peach, our dentist, or new pair of shoes in ways totally unlike the way we love our mate. Groucho Marx loved his cigar.*

There is puppy love and tough love. Platonic love and crazy love. Love runs from cool blue-green to hot purple. The ancients knew all this when they assigned names from Eros, to Agape ( Godly) to Philia (brotherly love) etc..

I sign emails with love to many friends and don’t mean the same emotion. Such diverse sentiments in search of a name. To love is not at all the same as being in love.

In my years with Peggy our love was voluptuous, fully met and renewed each day. It attained even more dimension with the intimacy of caregiving. Yet we had to settle for that exhausted word, love. 

Words lose their potency with over use. A certain ho-hum happens, they grow limp when misappropriated. Hallmark cards are exhibit A. 

Love poetry is far more challenging to write than about rage or dread. It took Shakespeare to nail it as that which admits no impediments. Even there, I submit, tis better to admit impediments and still to love, undiminished.

Love (eros) is life itself. The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.** It is the answer to loss and death. Yes, there are elements of projection and illogic yet love releases the best version of ourselves. It creates the soil from which a garden grows and overthrows the walls. With all its exclamations in stanza and song it still remains unsayable. Poets fail because words are incapable. Yet even in those vain attempts they are vitalized in writing creative bursts as varied as crystals of snow. 

With Valentine's Day approaching I'm aware mostpeople speak their love in the language of flowers or chocolate. Mostpeople have disowned their poet. Peggy and I were not mostpeople. We celebrated February 14th as a high holy day having discovered the divinity within. In the end loving is, of course, more about being than saying.

·  * This is the punch-line of one of my favorite jokes. Anyone interested in the full story let me know. 

** **Dylan Thomas poem







  1. I suspect that rumor has it that the human capacities for love and language are intimately related, or at least well acquainted.

  2. I'm not so sure about that when I think about Bukowski
    and all those who did away with themselves. But maybe suicide and self-abuse comes out of a profound disappointment with how far and how fast we have fallen.