Friday, September 20, 2013

Love Poetry; J.S. Watts is my guest today

I'm very excited to have  J.S. Watts here today. She's the author of several volumes of poetry and the novel, A Darker Moon.

Love Poetry – Counting The Ways

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

If, instead of ways, you count published love poems, you’ll come to the conclusion that an awful lot of people love an awful lot more people in an amazing variety of ways.

There’s been some beautiful poetry written on the subject of love and an impressive amount of it has developed iconic status within the canon of English language poetry. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How do I love thee?” is just one such poem. There are also any number of Shakespearian sonnets, though “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate” probably has the edge.

I’ve always had a soft spot for John Donne’s tender song of parting “Sweetest love, I do not go/ For weariness of thee”, but the man wrote a wide range of vibrant love poems, both soulful and carnal, before turning his attention to God. It has been argued that his Holy Sonnets are just more love poems, but with God as the object of adoration, rather than his previous assorted mistresses. Love poetry is a broad genre and there is ample room for the romantic, the raunchy and the religious within it. There is even room for the anti-romantic.

In this category, one of my favourites is Dorothy Parker’s brief but biting “Unfortunate Coincidence”, which opens with the apparently romantic line, “By the time you swear you’re his,” but ends on the telling note, “One of you is lying” – a wisecracking and cleverly jaundiced take on the reality of romantic love. I also can’t help but reference the English language translations of the Roman poet Catullus; like Donne, a writer of both romantic and carnal love poetry. The century is irrelevant. As in our own times, the course of true love did not always flow smoothly back in Catullus’s day,

            “the words of a woman to her ardent lover
              should be written on the wind and the fast-running water.”

Even I’ve been known to write the odd love poem:

Painted Eggs*

            Empty and hollow as a blown egg
            Because you are not here.
            Painting me up in pretty colours
            Can’t disguise my fragility,
            My want of guts.
            Only your presence can provide that;
            Pivot and substance of my universe,
            Big nest.

The poem is a lament on the absence of a loved one and I am not inured to the siren call of romance, but, I confess, my natural sensibilities lean more to Dorothy Parker’s view of things. “Lycanthropist”, a poem from the same collection as “Painted Eggs”, describes an unusual way of breaking free from a failed relationship – “On nights such as this I feel the wolf within me”. Although not poetry, I’m also conscious that the ageless love affair at the heart of my novel, “A Darker Moon”, is a black and complicated thing, not conducive to happy outcomes, but then the novel is a dark, literary fantasy, so it would hardly be appropriate to centre it on a relationship that was all red roses and puppy dogs.

For all my self-proclaimed cynicism, I’m as moved as the next reader by poems such as Philip Larkin’s “Arundel Tomb” (even if the sentiment ascribed to it, isn’t quite what he intended) – “What will survive of us is love” and Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” – a melancholy sequence of poems, lamenting lost love and friendship, but which avows,

                        “’Tis better to have loved and lost
                       Than never to have loved at all.”

So there we have it: a range of forms, styles, subjects and sentiments, but regardless of when these poems were written, humanity’s fascination with love is what fuels them. There are many ways to express love in poetry and many types of love to be expressed, but whether dark and bitter or light and hopeful, it always comes down to our need to be loved.


* “Painted Eggs” was first published in the literary magazine “Envoi” and appears in the poetry collection “Cats and Other Myths” by J.S.Watts.

Also by JS Watts:
Abe Finchley is a damaged man, an orphan with no roots and no family ties. When he finally meets the woman he has been looking for all his life, he finds not just love and passion, but a dark and violent family history that spans generations into humanity’s deepest past.

Eve is the woman of his dreams; but dream is just another word for nightmare, and Abe knows all about those. Amidst a confused web of lies and secrets, Abe is trying to discover who he is and make sense of what he may become. More than just his future and his new-found love is at stake. When he discovers that he has a brother, a man bound by divine destiny to kill him, Abe is going to have to make a difficult choice. A choice that might redeem the world. A choice that just might destroy it.

A Darker Moon is a dark, psychological fantasy. A mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light.

J.S. Watts at  Amazon:



  1. I am very excited to be here - thank you for having me.

    1. You're very welcome, J.S.. It's a pleasure to have you here