I read a young lady’s poetry book, Love, Not Love, with great interest and curiosity. Love poems by a young lady can be intriguing to any poetry lover, but the poems in this poetry book are different from the traditional love poems I read. Expressions are honest with a layman’s common language. Metaphors are not at the heart of this volume. I am an old poet, so I feel a generation gap with the author. As a matter of fact, there is more than one generation gap between the author and this reviewer.
Poems in this book are separated into two categories: what is love and what is not love. Simply put, what is lust and what is love. I can understand this separation. However, I don’t fully understand the point of dividing the book into two parts. In this commentary, I can select three poems and can categorize them into what lust is and what love is. The most significant statement from the author is: This book is dedicated to God, the one who created us to be loved, and who can guide us to understand the meaning of love. That puzzles me, though. This dedication has nothing to do with the poems in this volume. A young lady’s maturity to distinguish love from lust seemingly produced this kind of poetry book. She was eventually free from lust.
When I was young, I was able to distinguish one from the other without any experimentations with girls or women. There was a different concept of “girlfriend” then. I could read many romantic stories relating tragedies of mistaken love or lust, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter (1850) and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1873-1877). In the 21st century, young ladies need more experiences with “boyfriends” not just one boyfriend in order to find love. I don’t know. Boyfriend/girl friend relationships have allowed for intimate sexual relationships or more.
I like her simple erotic poem, “Let Me” in the section titled “To Ex-Boy Friends.”
Let me taste the color of your skin Let me feel the fragrance of your hair Let me, if you dare, to let me in (p.32)
I cannot distinguish lust from love in the above poem. Because this poem is a product of a young innocent love before lust turns into love or before love gives way to lust.
I like another poem which illustrates a traditional daughter-mother love relationship from “For Mom” in the section titled “To Others.”
Truly the heavens created thee, Happily the mountains would move For the love we share between the two of us. I say no one could be so many things as You are all at once A mentor, a counselor, an encouraging coach, A friend, a sympathetic sister, A beautiful smile, an encouraging word, an arrow To point out the path that is prepared for my footsteps, A listening ear, my love, no teacher ever has taught As skillfully as thee Or given your loving soul so freely, Asking nothing in return. I humble myself before You.
If I could be myself within your love i Would so eternally Never have I known two people As intertwined, as whole (the root of holy is “Whole”).
There is no love as beautiful, No sweet love so sweet smelling or soft singing No tender love as tenderly pure and encompassing. My happiness is spoken all days without a sound. Nothing else brings me Comfort, Nothing else gives me Joy. I cherish your heart, it is A heart as strong and pure as the gold of the sun. Truly are You my Comfort and Joy. There is nothing more to say (pp. 43-44)
I can see some conflicts between the daughter and her mother in some other poems. But this particular poem can be appreciated universally by all daughters and mothers.
Following is the last stanza of “Sad Persecution” in the section titled, “No Love to My Ex-Boyfriends.” I can see it as not being love, but lust.
Why do you tear me up? Why do I feel so uneasy? Our bodies are in love. Our bodies make up easily. Our bodies rule our heads Because the sex….. mmm yeah the sex… mmm yeah the desire for sex Is separate from the head, The only time we love each other Is when we are in bed. The only time we feel love And feel loved is when we are in bed. (pp.58-59)
Sex is part of love, it consummates the love. Judging from the poems, the young poet took quite a long time to distinguish lust from love. In reality, the two are not separable as theory would have it.
The author is a young woman when she published this poetry book. At the end, she finds 1Corinthians and proclaims that she has found love from her long experimentation with lust and love. However, no one can separate the two, passion and love in exact terms. Is Ame Ai trying to say this in this poetry book?
I am not sure.
From this book, I have discovered poetry by a young woman in the modern age. I feel “enlightened”. Love, Not Love reminds me of Erica Jong’s first novel, Fear of Flying (1973) which I read when I was a young college professor. Jong created in it a sensation with her frank treatment of a woman’s sexual desires.