Avatars of Cupid

What kind of love are you familiar with? The shirtless, the repulsive, the unexpected or the unrequited...poetry over years have described the kinds of love we experience. Here are a few excerpts from poems

Published: 11th February 2016 06:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2016 06:50 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: I often meet people who tell me that they love reading because it helps them give words to their feelings. This Valentine’s Day, whether you’re — emotionally-speaking — turning a page, closing a chapter or refusing to return a library book, look to poetry. Here are a few choice lines for some different kinds of love…

For love unexpected

Sembulapayaneerar’s startlingly beautiful Tamil verse (translation: AK Ramanujam) is 2000 years old, yet timeless:

What could my mother be to yours? What kin is my father to yours anyway? And how did you and I meet ever? But in love our hearts are as red earth and pouring rain: mingled beyond parting.

For love that’s making you sick

This topic makes you want to puke. I know. Here’s Alice Walker, in an accidental rejoinder to the sentimentality of the verse above:

I love a man who is not worth my love. Did this happen to your mother? Did your grandmother wake up for no good reason in the middle of the night?

For love unrequited

Remember: weep into Neruda’s lines, but don’t forget to do as he does. Some of the best poetry comes from things that cannot be said:

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is shattered and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'


For love in spite of itself

This is one of those quotes that rises in the mind in the midst of utterly frustrated desire. Michael Ondaatje, anywhere, everywhere:

Where is there a room without the damn god of love?

For love that’s better lost

There, there, honey… Rumi makes it better (translation: Coleman Barks):

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.

For love that’s really lust

‘Nuff said. Andal, 8th century mystic and total fox (translation: Archana Venkatesan):

Beseech him to enter me for a single day and wipe away the vermillion smeared upon my breasts.

Only then can I survive.

For love that’s a lot more than lust

Terrifying, isn’t it, to really adore someone? Marilyn Hacker chronicles that gut-clenching feeling:

Although I’d cream my jeans touching your breast,sweetheart, it isn’t lust; it’s all the rest of what I want with you that scares me shitless.

For love, suddenly alone

It’s funny how a separation can mean a new lease on life, a chance to begin again. Derek Walcott recommends falling in love… with yourself.

Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.

For love worth retelling

Sometimes a good story is all you get out of it. That and a few intriguing scars, or as Sandra Cisneros puts it:

There should be stars for great wars like ours. There ought to be awards and plenty of champagne for the survivors.

For love eternal

I’m not a tattoo person, but I’ve thought sometimes of inking these words from Edward Estlin cummings on my skin. For me, these lines remind me of my grandmother:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere  i go you go,mydear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)


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