Quick: name a contemporary love poem.
Hard, right? In contemporary poetry, one doesn’t find much about love – the emotion, the feeling, the condition that is so characteristics of a considerable body of poetry from earliest times to the 20th century. Think Song of Solomon, the Greeks and Romans. Think of Boccaccio, the Elizabethans (those sonnets!) and the Cavalier poets, the Romantics and even the Victorians.
But something happened in the century just past. Perhaps two world wars, a major depression, the rise of the media and the dominance of Freudian psychology pushed love poetry into a forgotten corner. I’ve even heard that feminism made love poetry a dangerous occupation. Whatever the cause or causes, love poetry isn’t what it has been in times before ours.
Which makes Dave Malone’s book of poetry Under the Sycamore all the more remarkable. Malone, the author of several books of poetry and a university professor, first published the book in 2003. It is a volume of 100 poems, all untitled and all short (the longest is eight lines). And they are all poems about love – love yearned for, love found, love lost, love regained – almost a story of a relationship that happens over an entire lifetime.
Looking at the stars,
I have one thought
where I’m holding you
until they disappear.
And then this:
The moonlight on your face
through the open window
is actually my breath.
These short poems are filled with longing and passion, the self- and shared knowledge of two lovers, along with emptiness, loss and then reconciliation.
I lost my way in the snow
until I heard your voice
in the swirling wind.
To read these poems (and to read them aloud) is to sit in a well-lit, under-furnished room, watching the object of your love, who is unaware of being observed. Under the Sycamore is a beautiful volume of love poems. We need more of them.