Study Guide for Love Poems by Modern Women
Source: Wendy Mulford, ed.: Love Poems by Women.
There are many passages in these poems that I don't claim to understand completely; but try to discern the feelings and patterns they contain even if you can't explain every line. The best way to appreciate most poetry is to read it aloud. Try it.
Sonja Akesson: From 'What Does Your Color Red Look Like?' p. 9, notes on p. 245.
The poet begins by proclaiming that there many meanings to the word 'love;' but instead of enumerating them, she asks whether what she feels now is love at all. Why do you think she does this? What similarities are there among the images used in the lines from 'There is a flush . . .' to 'in the dry heat'? What seems to be the main theme of this poem? 'Black crepe' is a kind of cloth which was traditionally used to symbolize mourning. The description at the end of the poem sounds rather repulsive. Can you see any ambiguity in the attitude of the poet toward 'you'?
Nuala Ni Dhomnaill: 'Labysheedy,' p. 19, notes on p. 250.
The title is a place name in
Marina Tsvetaeva: 'You Loved Me,' p. 31, notes on p. 267.
How does the title become more clearly defined as you read the poem? Why is the end of this love particularly shocking to the poet?
Rita Dove: 'Adolescence 1,' p. 32, notes on p. 251.
What sort of weather could be described as
'water-heavy'? What is the situation being described? What does it
mean to say that 'Linda's face grew wise?' What images of light,
feathery touching can you find in the poem? What images of light are in the
poem, and how do they relate to each other? Rita Dove is Poet-Laureate of the
Jelena Lengold: 'Passion,' p. 53, notes on p. 257.
What is the speaker learning about her lover? Why does she identify with the cat at the end of the poem? What qualities might they have in common?
Joy Harjo: 'Nine Below,' p. 67, notes on p. 254.
The Bering Sea separated the Cold War foes the
Marina Tsvetaeva: From 'Poem of the End,' p. 71, notes on p. 267.
What 'end' is this poem about? Which images reflect this theme? What does the first stanza mean? The eagle image occurs both at the beginning and end of the poem. What are traditional associations are there with eagles? How does the poet stress the intimate, profound nature of love? To what sort of love does she contrast their love? Is this a dialogue? Who is doing most of the speaking? To what departure does the conclusion point?
Adrienne Rich: 'Languedocienne,' p. 129, notes on p. 263.
Rita Dove: 'This Life,' p. 131.
What does this poem have to say about the disillusionment with love that may come with maturity? Who is 'you'? How does the poet feel about her current relationship?
Solveig von Schoultz: 'The Rain,' p. 144, notes on p. 267.
What images of the extinction of light are there in this poem? What have they to do with love?
Adrienne Rich: ' From Twenty-One Love Poems, III;' pp. 155-156.
What makes this poem about love between older people different from a poem about young love? What do the first two lines mean? How does she contrast her feelings now with what she felt at twenty?
Nzotake Shange: 'Get It & Feel Good,' pp. 166, notes on p. 264.
This poem is written in a style which was popular a few years ago, designed to capture the feeling of informal, colloquial speech. It has a light, dancing rhythm which works best when read aloud, and is intended for oral performance. It is crucial while reading this poem to keep in mind that the poet has probably had many unhappy encounters with men, so she is trying to cheer herself up by listing some of the benefits one can still salvage from this frustrating business of love, even in hard times. Instead of agonizing over the lack of a perfect love, she seems to be saying, try to celebrate the little pleasures that it can still offer. The tone is humorous, impudent, ironic. What aspects of this poem do you think are positive? Which negative?
Margaret Atwood: 'Eventual Proteus,' p. 168, notes on p. 246
In what ways has this relationship changed? How has the image of the man changed in the poet's eyes? Why are 'the early/languages obsolete'? Why is their lovemaking now a failure?
Audre Lorde: 'Sisters in Arms,' pp. 185-187, p. 258.
Audre Lorde is a highly political black lesbian poet who
here expresses her solidarity with a South African lover which is more about
the struggle against apartheid (correctly pronounced 'apart-hate,'
rather than the common but erroneous 'apart-hide ': the
word is Afrikaans, not German). What are the various sorts of things which the
poet wishes she could do for her grieving lover? Note that after the blank
line, she scene shiftss to the
Alice Walker: 'Did This Happen to Your Mother? Did Your Sister Throw Up a Lot?' p. 192, notes p. 268.
Solveig von Schoultz: 'The Lover,' p. 216.
Describe the emotions that are expressed in this poem. What is going on?
Marina Tsvetaeva: 'Where Does this TendernessCome from?' p. 223.
Here a woman is astonished to find herself so moved by a new lover she barely knows. What causes her astonishment?
Nina Cassian: 'Prayer,' p. 223, notes on p. 248
This poem evokes old myths of animal lovers or gods who mate with mortal women. What emotions does the poem express? Explain the title of the poem.
Jayne Cortez: 'Rose Solitude,' p. 234, notes on p. 249.
This love poem--or elegy--to the memory of the great
composer and band leader Duke Ellington alludes to the titles of a number of
his compositions, including 'Solitude,' 'Satin Doll,'
'Caravan,' and 'Cotton Tail.' Edward Kennedy Ellington was
famously a lover of women, but it his music which is the object of adoration
here. Musk is an important ingredient in many perfumes, taken from the mink.
'Satchmo' was the nickname of the great jazz trumpeter Louis
Armstrong. Nat (King) Cole (father of Natalie) was a major jazz pianist before
he became even more famous as a singer and had the first network television
show hosted by a black performer. Shango is a West African god of storms and
power often evoked in the Caribbean and
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