Monday, 31 May 2010

Two people with one pulse

I don't know what it is about love poems, and love songs, but somehow they're always a lot better if they don't mention the word 'love'. It's a word which means both too much and too little, especially in the English language, where it can be used to adequately sum up feelings towards things like chocolate, football, or the latest television show. The word 'love' doesn't convey a whole lot in itself, and poems which can most accurately portray the actual feelings of being in love are a lot more beautiful and realistic.

Like this poem
Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream's music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise -
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body's peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

"Meeting point" by Louis MacNeice, is probably my favourite love poem (my favourite love song is 'walk the line' by Johnny Cash). There's something about this poem that seems to perfectly capture the feeling of sitting with someone special, someone whose life means as much to you as your own. The feeling that the rest of time has stopped, and that the two of you, for one instance, are locked in a little bubble of one-ness. In the poem, the moving stairs have stopped, the radio sounds are slowing and dimming and the bell has hovered, silently. But that time, the time between the 'clangs' is more beautiful and special than the real noise, in the same way that the time between the times that the lovers are currently in is more special than the surrounding real world.

It's a bit of a surreal poem as well, there are camels and deserts and forests. They aren't seeing the world how it is - of course not, they're in love! There world is a fantastical, magical place, more meaningful if less realistic.

The second-to-last stanza always makes me start sniffling a little. "God or whatever means the Good" is such a good reflection of the way love can feel. It might be God, it might be some other mystical spiritual thing, it might just be two people and the way they feel but there is something other involved in this. Something in love that passes beyond the explanation of science. Sure you can explain why people feel loving feelings, you can point to the various chemicals released by the brain, you can explain how the partnership between two people to bring up a child is evolutionarily important for human survival, but you can't really explain why it feels like that. Or why there's just a connection that happens, with some people and not others. What makes time stop and a coffee shop radio slow to a trickle of water.

I think as well, either consciously or unconsciously it kind of brings up another time that lovers feel. A time when time has stopped, when the world is fantastical, and when there only is one pulse, one heartbeat, and two people feeling one thing at the exact same moment and that feeling is a pure white flash of beautiful empty thought.

It's wonderfully written as well, the repetition of the first and last lines creates a surreal lilting flow. Five lines to a stanza stops the two-four rhythm taking over:
da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM
and THEY were NEI-ther UP nor DOWN
By adding the extra fifth line in there it creates a pause after every stanza, a little space of time to stop the rhythm running away with you. Try reading it without the last line of each stanza and you can see the effect, everything just runs into itself and it creates a running on rhythm that spoils the mood.

The rhythms, the imagery, and the worlds all generate the feelings and emotions inside you that the author is trying to convey. It's the sort of poem which makes me feel both very excited at the power that poetry can possess and the things it can achieve, and at the same time a little miserable because I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to write poetry that amazing myself. A friend of mine put forward that poetry is the purest form of writing, and I think I'm starting to agree with him. Unlike novels, or short stories, poetry aims to use as few words as possible to create true human feelings and emotions. To go from thoughts in a head, to words on a page, to emotions in a mind.

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