Love is a very personal thing and is not always full of sweet moments.
Three poets can look at love and even if they are close, with similar backgrounds, each will have had a different experience.
If you lose the love of your life, no matter what the reason, it can be painful but the pain can be greater or lesser depending on whether you lost that love because it was taken from you – which can totally destroy your life leaving it without order or meaning – or if you were careless and let that love slip away.
You can even believe your love remains because you do not know it is lost, or because you see love in everything around you.
The great Liverpool poet Adrian Henri is possibly best known for being one of the trio of poets who became known for The Mersey Sound – no not THAT Mersey sound – poets who depending on the rhythm of their words to provide structure rather than the rhythm of strings and drums.
Henri appeared to be cynical yet in this poem he brings love down to the simple things in life – not caviare and champagne rather fish and chips and warm beer.
Love is …
Love is... Love is feeling cold in the back of vans Love is a fanclub with only two fans Love is walking holding paintstained hands Love is. Love is fish and chips on winter nights Love is blankets full of strange delights Love is when you don't put out the light Love is Love is the presents in Christmas shops Love is when you're feeling Top of the Pops Love is what happens when the music stops Love is Love is white panties lying all forlorn Love is pink nightdresses still slightly warm Love is when you have to leave at dawn Love is Love is you and love is me Love is prison and love is free Love's what's there when you are away from me Love is... Adrian Henri
Henri’s fellow Liverpool poet, Roger McGough has a completely different take on love. In some ways he seems selfish and arrogant, which those who know this former member of Scaffold is not the real McGough.
In this relationship – which to many appears to be on the rocks – the same action is seen in different ways, based on which of the protagonists is interpreting it.
I project my voice
You hear me shout
I have an inquiring mind
You are nosy
This style of “conversation” (really two monologues rather than a dialogue) can involve two or more people, although the more people you have the more likely they will form alliances and still end up as two mindsets.
You and I
I explain quietly. You hear me shouting. You try a new tack. I feel old wounds reopen. You see both sides. I see your blinkers. I am placatory. You sense a new selfishness. I am a dove. You recognize the hawk. You offer an olive branch. I feel the thorns. You bleed. I see crocodile tears. I withdraw. You reel from the impact. Roger McGough
In the third poem we meet Brian Patten, the third part of The Mersey Sound, who differs from his colleagues in as many ways as he is similar.
This time we can see a love that is ending more through neglect than antipathy. The voice of the poet is that of one who has neglected or ignored a love and only now sees the possible ugliness of a life apart which would be just as ugly now as if they stayed together.
This is recognition of what you have lost only when you have lost it.
You cannot repair that which cannot be repaired.
And Nothing Is Ever As You Want It To Be
You lose your love for her and then It is her who is lost And then it is both who are lost And nothing is as perfect as you want it to be. In a very ordinary world A most extraordinary pain mingles with the small routines, The loss seems huge and yet Nothing can be pinned down or fully explained. You are afraid If you ever found the perfect love It would scald your hands Rip the skin from your nerves, Cause havoc with a computered heart. You lose your love for her and then it is her who is lost You tried not to hurt and yet Everything you touched became a wound You tried to mend what cannot be mended. You tried, neither foolish or clumsy, To rescue what cannot be rescued. You failed, And now she is elsewhere And her night and your night Are both utterly drained. How easy it would be If love could be brought home like a lost kitten Or gathered in like strawberries, How lovely it would be But nothing is ever as you want it to be. Brian Patten
I have had the privilege of seeing these three great poets in performance not once, but twice. The first was in the early 70s and was a chance to hear the poems I had begun to love in the 60s actually spoken by the poets.
The second time was late in the 90s and the performance was as different as it was the same. The three characters I had seen at the Basildon Arts Centre had the same easy relationship when I saw them 15 years later in Lowestoft.
It was the content that changed, the words were the same as they had always used – just in a different order.