I first loved my husband in the fall of 1979, and I’ve been loving him again and again ever since. All that time I’ve written poetry, but until January first this year I’d written only a handful of love poems.
That curious pair of facts began to needle me in early December last year. Driving from here to there I thought about a love poem by Dorianne Laux I’d read that morning, how true and necessary it was and how unwrought it seemed. That thinking led me to wonder why I’d written so few love poems over the years. I realized that I was just plain afraid of writing them.
It’s easy to go wrong writing about love: our culture is awash in trite, corny, simpleminded expressions of love. It seemed to me, on that December day, that a poet needed some kind of protective gear—Hazmat suit or mosquito netting or night-vision goggles, perhaps even all three—to write love poems free of the blight of kitsch. But what could the poetic protective gear be other than an awareness of those clichés? Surely if you know them you can avoid them.
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