Since I met most of my friends in undergraduate poetry classes, I don’t have a great sense of how important poetry is to people who didn’t study it in college. (Which is, let’s be honest, most people.) So last month, when I asked you to submit wedding poems that inspired you, I was thrilled to see so many familiar names on the list, and even more excited to discover new poems and poets that I hadn’t read before. (The Leo Marks poem, for example, was read at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, as many of you mentioned, but did you know that it was also used to encrypt messages during WWII?)
But before I dig into a few of my favorites from the open thread, we know that that poetry isn’t everyone’s bag. So for our next roundup, we’re asking for prose. If you have a favorite passage on love, relationships, or life, leave it in the comments for a future roundup!
And now, some of my favorite poems from your suggestions:
Sonnet XI from Fatal Interview
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion and the legend plain—
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:
“Look what I have!—And these are all for you.”
I Am Offering This Poem from Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you,
I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,
I love you,
Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe,
I love you,
It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
I love you.
The Life That I Have
by Leo Marks
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog from What Learning Leaves
by Taylor Mali
First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.
Having a Coke With You from Collected Poems
by Frank O’Hara
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
The Return of Odysseus from The Good Kiss: Poems
by George Bilgere
When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.
In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.
I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.
I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what’s-his-name.
And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.