Sometimes we tend to see poetry as an elevated discipline that beautifies those intense moments in life. Take for instance the millions of poems dealing with love, infatuation, death, pain, and heartbreak. Their structure, rhythm, and use of words definitely elevate the essence of those motifs and turn them into real works of art that enlighten our soul. But what happens when poetry is used to depict more regular moments in life? What if we could use poetry not only to warm our hearts but as words of advice in our life?
There are great poets whose work speaks directly to an everyday emotion we all share and whose words can warm and ease our minds and hearts. But then again, how about those poets who, besides doing that, used their talent to give us guidelines on how to deal with issues in our lives? One example can be how to continue having a good relationship with your ex even after you've parted ways as a couple. Those poems and that idea on love were written by one of the most important poets of the twentieth century in the United States, the Pulitzer winner Edna St. Vincent Millay.
“I think I should have loved you presently” [Extract]
I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
Millay wasn't only one of the most praised poets of her time. She was also the embodiment of modernity at a time when conservatism reigned society. Millay was never afraid of speaking her mind and lived her life freely, regardless of what the social standards dictated. She was a liberal woman who understood love as an emotion that doesn't care about gender, age, social condition, or even loyalty in the way we understand it.
“Even in the moment of our earliest kiss” [Extract]
Even in the moment of our earliest kiss,
When sighed the straitened bud into the flower,
Sat the dry seed of most unwelcome this;
[...] I only hoped, with the mild hope of all
Who watch the leaf take shape upon the tree,
A fairer summer and a later fall
Than in these parts a man is apt to see.
Love for her was an ephemeral and free emotion that didn’t have rules. One that can vanish as swiftly as it comes. More importantly, that it isn’t only attached to a single person. She believed and was part of polyamorous relationships with both men and women. However it wasn’t only about sexual relationships with them. As her poetry shows, she truly believed in love and cared deeply for her partners. As you can see in these poems, she talks about love in a quite different way. In some of them, she talks about intensity and feelings, while in others she addresses some of her partners and tells them how sorry she feels for not corresponding them in the way they expected, but how at the same time, she really loved them.
“I know my mind and I have made my choice” [Extract]
I know my mind and I have made my choice;
Not from your temper does my doom depend;
Love me or love me not, you have no voice
In this, which is my portion to the end.
I do desire your kiss upon my mouth;
[...]They have not craved a cup of water more
That bleach upon the deserts of the south;
Here might you bless me; what you cannot do
Is bow me down, who have been loved by you.
In What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, a biographical compilation of her love poems and letters, there are extracts in which one of her most famous lovers, Floyd Dell, explains how he fell for this curious and different girl. He also spoke of how even when it was difficult for him to follow her “philosophy of freedom” regarding love. Yet, he understood that at the end of the day this was the truest and most honest form of the emotion. She showed him what was real love and how, even when things didn’t work out for them, she encouraged them to continue their friendship.
Her poems that could be seen or interpreted as examples of love and heartbreak have in their essence that idea of embracing the love of others, that love isn’t only a physical thing but a chemical reaction to another person, and that even when that chemistry can be altered, the heart and mind will always have a connection with that being. Thus, she always tried to remain friends with her former partners, because they shared a connection more important than any fight or disagreement. At the end of the day, love isn’t only a sexual or romantic emotion, but a shared connection with a person that can last forever.
So, what do you think? Is it possible to stay friends with your ex? Or are these simply the ideas of a modern woman?
Check these out for more on poetry: