Thinking about Valentine’s Day, and the Love Poetry event at King’s Place tonight, to which I am looking forward immensely, I suddenly wondered which of my own poems had been inspired by love, in the sense of romantic love. I am a very occasional poet, but, as for most people, those occasions are often linked to love, or the loss of it.
Of course, I’m interested in the nature of love in its broadest sense, an interest developed through my years in the Christian church, where we were taught to categorise love into agápē (God’s love — sacrificial love, the highest kind, a matter of choice), philia (brotherly love or friendship – the next best, perhaps imperfect, but also a matter of virtuous choice), storge (familial affection — a love to be expected, as good and natural) and eros (romantic love — also a natural love, but a dangerous and unreliable one, to be outwitted, outwaited, carefully managed, or repressed … and never trusted).
Nowadays, although I still find these concepts useful, I don’t see any of them as exclusive to particular types of relationship, which, I guess, reflects my more mature view of humans as psycho-sexual-spiritual beings who are inevitably always all of these things in all relationships. As the Wikipedia entries point out, the ancient Greek terms encompassed a wide range of concepts and affections. But the goal of Christian teaching is usually to simplify life, rather than to revel in its complexity, so the above simple English translations and the relative values assigned to them by my teachers were what stuck for a very long time.
And yet, despite this drilling in the compartmentalisation of love, when I looked through the paltry collection of my own poems, I was startled to realise that I had never read or examined the love poems as a group. Each was born in its own time, and each out of a different relationship or phase in my life, and although I have worked on each of them for years, I have never related them to each other. In retrospect, this seems strange, so today I looked at my poems to see a.) which I could call love poems and b.) whether I could sort them into the ancient Greek groups.
While in this “grouping” mode, I’ve enjoyed reviewing the more agápē-oriented poems arising from my spiritual quest, but that’s a post for another day. Valentine’s Day is the day for contemplating romantic love (and friendship, I think, because there is often so much overlap). With these poems, I was surprised to see, firstly, how they reveal precisely that tendency toward synthesis of which I’m now conscious, and secondly, how different they are from each other. At least, to me, they seem different from each other. I wonder if another reader would be struck by similarities or differences?
- Coming to terms
- On deciding not to marry a priest
- Thanks for the lesson
- Song and Dance
- For My Valentine