I am reading at a wedding later this month, and was asked to pick a poem. It turns out that this is surprisingly difficult, despite the endless pool of poetry about love and devotion that we regularly paddle in round these parts.
We ended up stewing in a pile of books spread across the floor, every piece of poetry I own skimmed for something that seemed appropriate. Quite a lot of it is inappropriate, because, as Kaveh Akbar mentions on the VS podcast this week, there is an issue with poetry that you come to with a complete idea. Complete ideas are without the tension of being built on the page lack some sense of wonder and confusion that comes from the internal tugging of a poet with the concept.
A wedding and marriage are simple and complete ideas, and as such not all that good for poetry despite that central theme of love. As we worked through the piles of books, sending ones we liked to the bride, we discovered that all these love poems are about love missed out on, love and regret, love and dying, infidelity, or get a bit too sexy for a mixed gathering.
We even turned to giant bible-paper collections I haven’t opened since studying, and old collections that I’ve only dipped into from time to time.
We ended up with something from the first book we went to, one that I bought a friend as a wedding present. I read at that wedding too (extremely fast, extremely embarrassing) — and was told later that it was funny that I bought them a book of poetry filled with poems that might have been more appropriate.
That poetry book is the only poetry book my better half has read entirely, that is dedicated to slow love completely, and occasionally makes people shudder because they studied the author at school.
Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy remains one of my favourite poetry collections to return to simply because it contains such a single and complete idea of love.
The poem that has been chosen is Swing, which you can read below:
It’s quite good for a wedding — the geese guests, the looping of the swing round the bough like a ring, the veil. The celebratory champagne, at the bend of a river, where the flow changes course while being of the same current. The asking and the shameless joy of the action.
The swing metaphor itself is a nice one, because the joy is simple and the excitement/threat of swinging over the river is a contained one because it’s tethered. There’s the idea of pushing someone on a swing, a kind of selfless labour. And out into what — an affirmative blue, and idealised space that one must imagine the space beyond a wedding to be like.
Interesting picking through the idea of island erasure in the name of tidy maps.
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own. It was written by @CJEggett and can be found in your inbox on a Friday if you sign up via tinyletter, or online on medium a little while later. Please don’t GDPR me. I have been reading about Sheol and mushroom farming. Good phrases from the latter are: “fire-fang”, “local nurseryman”, “fruitbodies”, and “peak-heated” — all coming to a poem near you soon (one hopes).