Have you read Morgan Parker’s essay “Love Poems are Dead” over at the Harriet the Blog?
What, I asked my students, apprentices to contemporary verse, is a love poem in 2015?
Parker explores love as privilege. Parker suggests a line from Amiri Baraka’s “Black Art” as an answer:
Let there be no love poems written
until love can exist freely and
This takes me back to the introduction of James Baldwin’s essay “We Can Change the Country”:
Before I say anything else, I have an announcement to make. I want all of you, and your wives and your children and your brothers-in-law and everyone you know, to resolve as of this moment that you will buy no presents for Christmas. And when I say no presents, I mean not a nail file, not a toothbrush, and I want you to tell your children, as of this moment and on Christmas Day, that the reason there is no Santa Claus this year is because we have lost the right–by the murder of our brothers and sisters–to be called a Christian nation.
I also think back to Baldwin’s essay “As Much Truth as One Can Bear” in which he discusses the importance and responsibilities of writers. He writes:
The younger American writers, then, to whom we shall, one day, be most indebted–and I shall name no names, make no prophecies–are precisely those writers who are compelled to take it upon themselves to describe us to ourselves as we now are.
The above quotation then returns me to Morgan Parker’s essay and her insistence that love looks too much like hate. I need only open up my Facebook feed to see this hate dressed in costume as a love of Christ or country being shared among people I know and people I love. But then I think of James Baldwin’s discussion with Alex Darden in 1968. Even with Baldwin’s insistence of using “us” to include all Americans, Darden asks Baldwin how it is that Baldwin can indict white Americans. Baldwin interrupts Darden before he can finish the question: “Because I love them–because I love this country.” The foundation of Baldwin’s outrage is love. And I’m grateful for (and can identify) with Morgan Parker’s outrage for in this essay she, too, has shown me love.
Dear Morgan Parker,
Thank you for making
me think. Thank you for the love
poem. Thank you for creating a space
in which I feel a love poem is possible, is being
written, insists upon being written because it is not
like the “Love” poems we’ve known and continue to be taught.