OK, call me crazy, but I just realized this fact in a very concrete way and, quite frankly, I’m finding it kind of weird. I’ll say it again . . .
Love is a verb. A verb.
Yes, it’s also a noun, but that doesn’t bother me. And no, I haven’t lost my mind (well, . . .), but I am feeling a little confused.
What does this have to do with poetry, you ask? And why am I bothering you about it? And what on earth is wrong with me?
I have neither the time nor the tissues to tackle that third question, but I might be able to make sense of the other two (well, I’ll just concentrate on the first one).
As you know, no one contemplates and agonizes over their word choices more than poets, and knowing what a word is all about is paramount to this process. But have you ever really thought about a word so utterly common to poetry as love?
Love is a feeling—that’s the noun, but it’s also—what?—an action? Consider these statements:
I build houses.
I buy apples.
I run marathons.
I fix engines.
I love salmon.
Wait, what? If you’re like me, you can picture each of those statements except the last one. What does loving something look like? When you love something, what do you do?
Hm, perhaps love is more of a state of being. Let’s look at some of those examples:
I am tall.
I become tired.
I feel sick.
I love salmon.
Nope. That doesn’t seem to work either. I still can’t picture it.
The problem here is that love—and like and want and desire and figure and suppose—is the type of verb with which all the so-called action is internal. We can’t actually see it, but it’s there and it’s taking place in some dark recess of our psyche.
So if we can’t picture what it looks like to love something or someone, how do we use this word, or its counterparts, effectively in a form that is all about painting a picture through imagery and concrete ideas and images?
Ha! It’s a trick question! We don’t! (Oh, OK, you can use the word love in your poems if you must, but keep reading—this is the really good part).
The answer is to not use the word at all but, instead, to describe what it means to feel it. “I love you” may evoke an emotional reaction and a reader might picture someone they love, but it’s difficult to imagine the act of loving because it happens internally. So if you want to impart that someone in your poem (perhaps it’s you) loves something or someone, show your readers what that person does to express that love.
Think of the verb love as a bottomless container—Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, if you will—filled with amazing and perhaps surprising gifts. Pull them out one by one and show them to your readers through your poetry. If you do, you’ll elevate the word love, without even using it, beyond a mere part of speech.
Go ahead. Write a poem about love without using the actual word. I’d love to see what you come up with!