All The Leaves Say

In the other, the sunken life, in the world of green feedings, all the leaves say yes, meadows of curved stems say yes and warmth flows from the depth of this yes out toward horizons where hills are still transparent and the ground white with drippings from the moon. Waking from this memory of green, we'll face the skirmish of each day, with hostages retrieved from the night. This time will be different, new patterns for the feet, wings for the eye, rhythms for the heart, and our names everywhere like grass.

One possible interpretation is that Daigon's poem belongs in the nature category, because it uses images from nature. Another interpretation might emphasize the love theme suggested by the title and opening lines with the word "yes" and the romantic allusions in the final six lines, in which the poet expresses heartfelt rhythms etched everywhere (as a person etches initials within a heart on a tree). In fact,

Daigon's work is more powerful because she crosses borders and borrows from the love and nature traditions, paying tribute to this unnamed "other" —the person for whom the poem was written or inspired. The bottom line is this: The only interpretation that matters is Daigon's at the time she conceived the idea for the poem.

You categorize poems on one criterion: intent. In other words, if you want to compose a love poem, feel free to borrow nature images (or whatever else) to express that love without worrying about what type of verse it is. (Only literary critics have to worry about getting the interpretation right.) However, it is important that you become familiar with the traditional topics so you can study the basic models and base your own ideas on them.

In this and the next five chapters, you'll be reading summaries of various types of poems defining each genre. By "types," I mean poems containing enduring ideas about love, nature, afterlife, war, politics and special occasions. As this pertains to love, chances are you already have read or know some of these poems. Now, however, you should scan them again as a writer in search of ideas and approaches that also apply to your life.

Here are a dozen common types of love poems:

The Carpe Diem. In Latin, it means "seize the day." In love poetry, this idea has come to mean: "Act quickly on your romantic impulses, because life is short." The idea was best expressed by Robert Herrick in his immortal "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," whose first stanza reads:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying. . . .

The Complaint. This type of poem addresses another person who denies or in some way refuses to return feelings of love or affection. Here's an excerpt from "Song. To My Inconstant Mistress" by Thomas Carew:

Then shalt thou weep, entreat, complain To Love, as I did once to thee;

When all thy tears shall be as vain As mine were then, for thou shalt be Damned for thy false apostasy. . . .

Love Tribute. A love tribute is, simply, a celebratory poem dedicated to a lover, as this excerpt from a poem by Anne Bradstreet illustrates:

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