ann dickinson
Genre Benders
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Here to Remind You That Genre Is a Malleable and Arbitrary Category. Comment with some of your favorite genre benders!

The Greek word eros denotes ‘want,’ 'lack,’ 'desire for that which is missing.’ The lover wants what he does not have. It is by definition impossible for him to have what he wants if, as soon as it is had, it is no longer wanting. This is more than wordplay. There is a dilemma within eros that has been thought crucial by thinkers from Sappho to the present day. Plato turns and returns to it. Four of his dialogues explore what it means to say that desire can only be for what is lacking, not at hand, not present, not in one’s possession nor in one’s being: eros entails endeia. As Diotima puts it in the Symposium, Eros is a bastard got by Wealth on Poverty and ever at home in a life of want (203b-e). Hunger is the analog chosen by Simone Weil for this conundrum:

All our desires are contradictory, like the desire for food. I want the person I love to love me. If he is, however, totally devoted to me he does not exist any longer and I cease to love him. And as long as he is not totally devoted to me he does not love me enough. Hunger and repletion. (1977, 364)

Emily Dickinson puts the case more pertly in “I Had Been Hungry”:

So I found
that hunger was a way
of persons outside windows
that entering takes away.

Petrarch interprets the problem in terms of the ancient physiology of fire and ice:

I know to follow while I flee my fire
I freeze when present; when absent, hot is my desire. (“Trionfo d'Amore”)

Sartre has less patience with the contradictory ideal of desire, this “dupery.” He sees in erotic relations a system of infinite reflections, a deceiving mirror-game that carries within itself its own frustration (1956, 444-45). For Simone de Beauvoir the game is torture: “The knight departing for new adventures offends his lady yet she has nothing but contempt for him if he remains at her feet. This is the torture of impossible love …” (1953, 619). Jacques Lacan puts the matter somewhat more enigmatically when he says “Desire … evokes lack of being under the three figures of the nothing that constitutes the basis of the demand for love, of the hate that even denies the other’s being, and of the unspeakable element in that which is ignored in its request” (1966, 28).

It would seem that these various voices are pursuing a common perception. All human desire is poised on an axis of paradox, absence and presence its poles, love and hate its motive energies. Let us return once more to the poem of Sappho with which we began. This fragment [Eros once again limb-loosener whirls me / sweetbitter, impossible to fight off, creature stealing up] (LP, fr. 130), as it is preserved in the text and scholia of Hephaestion, is followed without a break by two lines in the same meter, which may be from the same poem:

Ἂτθι, σοὶ δ᾽ ἒμεθεν μὲν ἀπήχθετο
φροντίσδην, ἐπὶ δ᾽ Ἀνδρομέδαν πόται

Atthis, your care for me stirred hatred in you
and you flew to Andromeda. (LP, fr. 131)

Who ever desires what is not gone? No one. The Greeks were clear on this. They invented eros to express it.

—  Anne Carson – from Eros the Bittersweet

so im done like…. skimming through we for the most part and here are my comments (im not gonna say final bc i know this hell isnt over)

this is long but i’m not putting it in a read more bc i don’t want to like i want you to have to scroll through this.

1. none of the information/techniques/whatever on this book are actually new, there’s 14 pages worth of citations in the back of the book meaning that this book is essentially just like… a copy and paste of many people’s ideas and techniques so take that as you will

2. there’s quotes like everywhere? from like random famous women ranging from like rosa parks to emma watson to emily dickinson to anne frank…… it’s very odd it reminds me of that scene in the office where michael writes “ “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” - wayne gretsky” -michael scott anyway this is literally the most inclusive part of the whole book and also aside from crediting laverne cox as a transgender activist and actress there’s like…. literally no mention of trans women 

3. this has to be one of the most heteronormative pieces of media i’ve consumed in a my life… every mention of a relationship talks about “he”. also never ever post abt how u think gillians gonna date a woman or she’s bi or whatever bc in the book she deadass just refers to all her partners (past and future) as he so there you go

4. there’s an excerpt that says you have to be thankful because you’re much better off than a huge percentage of the world population bc you have a fridge lol

5. in the humility section theres a part where they talk abt how we’re all equal and no one is better than anyone else but last time i checked gillian charges a small fortune for fans to meet her and doesn’t even treat them like equals so just a thought

6. the mandatory “feminism” section or w/e in the manifesto part of the book uses those statistics you’ve read a million times like there’s more CEOs named john than there are female CEOs like this book really has Nothing new to offer anyone 

7. there’s a section where you’re encouraged to follow a diet while following these principles and it has a linked (yes! a typed out link in a book) to the BMI index and you’re told to go on it and check if you’re healthy or not like… don’t do that lmao 

8. the quote “more than seven hundred million women live in hunger, and yet those with plenty battle obesity and depression” Fuck You

9. the quote “every minute, one woman dies needlessly in childbirth, while elsewhere in the world another woman spends thousands on cosmetic surgery because she isn’t able to feel comfortable with how she’s aging” again… Fuck you

10. the notion that we as (cis, straight, white) women cannot be expected to be respected by society if we don’t learn to respect ourselves by doing things like… flirting with other women’s husbands OR letting other women’s husbands flirt with you… Yes Really

this is all i feel like typing out right now bc i have other shit to do but… this book sucks and im 90% sure there was a ghost writer 

Write me poetry
as my mouth exhales,
as I shut my eyes and
drift away.

Let me know how it feels to lay
in a street that’s sound asleep.
Teach me the right way
to count,
count black sheep.
One, two, three
no, you cannot play with me.
Four, five, six
our team is already complete.
Seven, eight, nine
honey don’t mind them
they are just kids.

Voice your midnight prayers
your irrational fears
in my ear,
whenever the lord above doesn’t seem to hear.

Talk to me, love
does water taste sweeter
at three in the morning?
did the stars let you in
on a couple of their secrets?

Tell me all about that silver mistress
of yours.
Talk to me, love
about her romantic way of dressing night
in charm
just to win over your heart.

Sing to me
the melodies that
blurr your lonely
and put your thoughts at ease.

Play hide and seek with the rising dawn
as you wait
for the weariness to come.

Write me poetry as I dream.
Leave it on my bedside
along with a cup of coffee
and a kiss.
I promise one in return
as soon as the sun has gone back

to sleep.

—  “Lullaby from the early bird to the insomniac” by @ifellinlovewithwords

How cute are these Valentines from ABDO? See them all here. H/t libraryjournal.

So. Let’s talk about love poems.

They’re hard! They’re HARD. Forget about how hard they are to write – it’s practically impossible just to PICK one.

Consider the idiosyncrasy of both love and poetry. One person’s deep sigh is another’s suppressed giggle. One person’s romance is another person’s nightmare.

On the one hand, there’s the risk of treacly, trite cheesiness. Even stellar poets can write cheesy love poems. I mean, no less than Rita Dove – RITA DOVE!  – wrote a poem called “Heart to Heart” that ends:

I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,

External image

(I can’t call her out like that without also mentioning that she’s got some fabulous love poems, too. Don’t be mad, Rita Dove, don’t be mad.).

But that’s arguably better than the flip side – the poem that’s 0% treacly but also misses the mark on “romantic.” There are so many deeply felt, stunningly beautiful poems that  should never, ever be read in a tender whisper over wine. Here’s my policy: If a poem might inspire your listener to say, stricken, “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to make you feel that way,” IXNAY on that oem-pay. 

A lot of Neruda falls under this category. I know! The man’s a master. But in the course of one poem he can veer from hearts, freedom and heaven to … “you are sad, all at once, like a voyage. // You gather things to you like an old road.” Being compared to an old road can put a damper on an evening, just sayin’.

Then there are the classics. How do I love thee? Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? If ever two were one, then surely we …  I could not possibly object to the virtues of these poems. They are shining examples of romantic verse. But they’re so famous that, alas, they’re a cliche.

Where does this leave us? Well, I have some utterly unsolicited advice.

1. Go straight for the sex poem. Obviously use this advice with discretion, friends, but the fact of the matter is that sexy poems are more reliable than lovey poems. Cheese-free and rarely cliched, they might raise an eyebrow but they’re less likely to inspire derision.

They can be on the clean side, like Carol Ann Duffy’s “You”:

I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are
on the bed, like a gift, like a touchable dream.

or, you know, not(That’s Cummings, of course. And if you’re looking to avoid the obvious, head for his dirty poems way before “i carry your heart”)

And, because nothing inspires great erotic poetry like unconsummated energy, there are tons of sex poems that are perfect for long-distance relationships, whether from Emily Dickinson:

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

or Muriel Rukeyser

Lie there, in sweat and dream, I do, and “there” 
Is here, my bed, on which I dream 
You, lying there, on yours, locked, pouring love

2. Go for a slightly less overused classic. Try John Donne’s “Good-Morrow”: 

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.

Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”: 

My heart is like a singing bird
                  Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
                  Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
                  That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
                  Because my love is come to me.

Or Walt Whitman’s lovely “Live Oak With Moss”:

And that night O you happy waters, I heard you beating the shores—But my heart beat happier than you—for he I love is returned and sleeping by my side, 

And that night in the stillness his face was inclined toward me while the moon’s clear beams shone, 

And his arm lay lightly over my breast—And that night I was happy.

Beloved poems, great poets, but not quite as stereotypical as your Bradstreet, Barrett Browning or Shakespeare. 

3. Go with a contemporary choice that’s self-aware but still sincere. Love poems these days tend to be less exuberant and hyperbolic than their 17th-century equivalents, filled with more mundanity, hesitancy and doubt. But some of them definitely still fit the bill for a romance-soaked holiday. Margaret Atwood does a lovely job of it, despairing at the inadequacy of all the words we wrap around romance:

This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It’s not love we don’t wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do.

And then there’s my current favorite love poem, by Matthew Dickman. It’s both a parody of the “list-of-reasons-why-you’re-pretty” poem, and a delightful example of one. It’s erotic and silly in equal parts, as messy and awkward and extraordinary as real love, with a healthy dose of pure joy. “Getting It Right" features these fabulous lines: "Your ankles are two monster-truck engines / but smaller and lighter and sexier / than a saucer with warm milk licking the outside edge; / they make me want to sing, make me / want to take them home and feed them pasta” – and it ends like this:

… Your neck
is a skyscraper of erotic adult videos, a swan and a ballet
and a throaty elevator
made of light. Your neck
is a scrim of wet silk that guides the dead into the hours of Heaven.
It makes me want to die, your mouth, which is the mouth of everything
worth saying. It’s abalone and coral reef. Your mouth,
which opens like the legs of astronauts
who disconnect their safety lines and ride their stars into the billion and     one
voting districts of the Milky Way.
Darling, you’re my President; I want to get this right!

P.S: And if you’re single, there’s Rumi. (There’s always Rumi).

Tonight I will make a tun of wine,
Set myself up with two bowls of it;
First I will divorce absolutely reason and religion.
Then take to wife the daughter of the wine.*

Happy Valentine’s Day!

- Camila

*Drink responsibly.