Love Perspectives

Stephen Corey, who has published several collections of verse and helps edit The Georgia Review, is known for his varied and sustained voice, particularly in love poems. The two reprinted here underscore important points about the genre. One is a love poem and the other an erotic one. Erotic poetry falls under the category of love with the emphasis, of course, on the physical act rather than the concept or felt emotion. In Corey's love poem, words exchanged between lovers have enhanced meaning; in his erotic one, words are muted because they need to show or describe. Here's the love poem:

WHAT WE DID, WHAT YOU WILL KNOW

We invented a language you will never speak, but you will hear its diction in all I can write.

Any scholar of my work will know, for every word, one less thing than you.

You will know a candle means a tall gray bookcase, any small wound is a rug, and orange shirts are ropes that can pull us to places different from those we have known.

Says Corey, "Every poem is an attempt to get past the barriers of silence and isolation that necessarily form around all of our lives as we live them. This particular poem happens to announce that effort quite blatantly — and then to undercut itself by recognizing, explicitly and implicitly, that it is erecting barriers at the same time it is trying to remove them." With this poem, Corey says, he wanted to discover ways to show and tell, to make statements and associate those statements with images.

In his erotic poem, however, showing rather than telling takes precedence:

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