Wouldn’t you love to know who this beloved is? From the poem “Name”, possibly a love poem to Marina Tsvetaeva (echoing “Poems for Blok”):
brushing my mouth
like a kiss”
rhyming with everything
I would love to know who she is so I could fall in love with her. Swim in oceanic waves of desire. Actually, I know her name and I am in love with her: Poetry.
Carol Ann Duffy, appointed Britain’s poet laureate in 2009, writes love poems to poetry, and the world that feeds them. “Love is talent, the world’s love’s metaphor.” The reader is vicariously, voyeuristically part of the grand celebration. When you fall, you fall hard. In Rapture, surprises land like a lover’s touch and scribble on your skin, right off the page.
I want to be both the lover and her beloved. I want to be the longing and the clamoring, lusty, romantic language. Desire’s tendrils spiral coyly, and they will climb on a mop of floppy hyacinth—or on a dead vine. One is wrapped around my finger, as I crouch before “Lady Margaret”, Passiflora (passion flower) in my garden. I’m wrapped around Duffy’s finger, body, soul, and poet-mind.
From the volume’s first poem, “You”:
Falling in love
is glamorous hell, the crouched, parched heart
like a tiger ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin.
Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.
And from “Forest”:
The moon tossed down its shimmering cloth. We undressed,
then dressed again in the gowns of the moon. We knelt in the leaves,
kissed, kissed; new words rustled nearby and we swooned.
Later in the poem:
Thorns on my breasts, rain in my mouth, loam on my bare feet, rough
bark grazing my back, I moaned for them all. You stood, waist deep,
in a stream, pulling me in, so I swam. You were the water, the wind
Is this volume, winner of the T.S.Eliot Prize, as subversive (sub-verse) as it is obsessive? Is poetry subversive? A.R. Ammons said: “Yes, you have no idea how subversive – deeply subversive. Consciousness often reaches a deeply intense level at the edges of things, questioning and undermining accepted ways of doing things. The audience resists the change to the last moment, and then is grateful for it.”
I offer no resistance. I surrender to extravagant poetry and the stormy powers of love and sex, and leap into the element of which we are composed, and use every muscle in our souls to stay afloat within. From “River”:
The river stirs and turns, consoling and fondling itself
with watery hands, its clear limbs parting and closing.
Grey as a secret, the heron bows its head on the bank.
I drop my past on the grass and open my arms, which ache
as though they held up this heavy sky, or had pressed
against window glass all night as my eyes sieved the stars;
open my mouth, wordless at last meeting love at last, dry
from traveling so long, shy of a prayer. You step form the shade,
and I feel love come to my arms and cover my mouth, feel;
my soul swoop and ease itself into my skin, like a bird
threading a river. Then I can look love full in the face, see
who you are I have come this far to find, the love of my life.
Sexual love is enacted by the moon, stars and clouds, ocean and shore, witnessed by the lush forest floor. A poet as accomplished as Carol Anne Duffy can work on the grandest of scales, and go forth unabashedly, over the top. If Shakespeare is perched on her shoulder,
Not there to lie on the grass of our graves, both,
alive alive oh,
or there for Shakespeare’s shooting star,
or there for who we are,
so be it. Give me voluptuous poetry to savor in slow, delectable bites.
If sexual desire were anything but insatiable, it would be something else. If experience couldn’t let language in, there’d be no poem, only rain. From “Bridgewater Hall”:
If rain were words, could talk,
somehow against your skin, I’d say look up, let it utter
on your face. Now hear my love for you. Now walk.
And on Duffy’s other shoulder, H.D. is perched. In these poems, you’ll find finely wrought imagism. But prepare yourself for the sad volta. From all-love to not-love. The animate and inanimate elements of the planet mirror and respond to the poet’s inner world and experience, feeling strikingly rational. From “Wintering”:
The garden tenses, lies face down, bereaved,
has wept its leaves.
The Latin names of plants blur like belief.
I walk on ice, it grimaces, then breaks.
All my mistakes
are frozen in the tight lock of my face.
Bare trees hold out their arms, beseech, entreat,
The clouds sag with the burden of their weight.
The wind screams at the house, bitter, betrayed.
The sky is flayed,
the moon a fingernail, bitten and frayed.
And from “Write”:
that the river held me close in its arms, cold fingers
stroking my limbs, cool tongue probing my mouth,
water’s voice swearing its love love love in my ears,
as I drowned in belief.
How a poet deals with that dastardly thief Time, our collective obsession, reveals her artistry. In “The Lovers”, Time slips away / like land from a ship.”
Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour,
bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich.
We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers
or wine, but the whole of the summer day and a grass ditch.
For thousands of seconds we kiss, your hair
like treasure on the ground; the Midas light
turning your limbs to gold. Time slows, for here
We are millionaires, backhanding the night
Rapture is a feast, a love fest. There’s rhyme! There’s music! Duffy dives deep into the sea of love, barely coming up for air, and out tumbles this celebratory, resonant book onto our shores.