The Art of Love Poetry

Erik Gray

From the Publisher:

Love begets poetry; poetry begets love. These two propositions have seemed evident to thinkers and poets across the Western literary tradition. Plato writes that “anyone that love touches instantly becomes a poet.” And even today, when poetry has largely disappeared from the mainstream of popular culture, it retains its romantic associations. But why should this be so—what are the connections between poetry and erotic love that lead us to associate them so strongly with one another? An examination of different theories of both love and poetry across the centuries reveals that the connection between them is not merely an accident of cultural history—the result of our having grown up hearing, or hearing about, love poetry—but something more intrinsic. Even as definitions of them have changed, the two phenomena have consistently been described in parallel terms. Love is characterized by paradox. Above all, it is both necessarily public, because interpersonal, and intensely private; hence it both requires expression and resists it. In poetry, especially lyric poetry, which features its own characteristic paradoxes and silences, love finds a natural outlet. This study considers both the theories and the love poems themselves, bringing together a wide range of examples from different eras in order to examine the major structures that love and poetry share. It does not aim to be a comprehensive history of Western love poetry, but an investigation into the meaning and function of recurrent tropes, forms, and images employed by poets to express and describe erotic love.