I've been thinking about poems that use well-worn words like heart, soul, moon etc and why some work and some don't, and haven't really found any answers. Perhaps some poems work and some don't and if you have a poem that works and these words work within it, then you're onto a winner.
Carol Ann Duffy's new collection of love poems, Rapture, is full of these words, over and over again, and the repitition throughout the collection takes on an intensity that a single poem from it can't quite show. Of course, some people found the book dull. I read a review by someone who liked Duffy's first three collections but hated this new one. Other critics loved it.
One thought I had is that using language that borders on cliche shows a lack of artifice on the part of the writer, and that approach gives a love poem the impression of being genuine. Whereas a love poem full of fresh, original imagery looks more planned out, as though the heart had less to do with it.
On the other hand, I hasten to add that Duffy handles her poems with a skill most of us can only dream at. Handled with less skill, the poems could all have come over as stale and cliched, which is the way most love poetry comes over.
This is a poem I wrote a few years back:
The mind a drill ..... the heart
a lawnmower ..... the tools we use to make
ourselves heard by one another above all other voices .....
save them .....from rust
even if there is no garden..... no need to screw
holes in concrete walls to beautify a barren landscape ..... our inner
appliances crave more than appearances ..... what’s on paper
..... the IKEA kit for the soul ..... the how-to book of how
things work ..... the dry formulae of mathematics
and magic portions ..... permanent
..... silent as a star’s knowing
wink ..... so give us noise and bustle ..... the clang
of hammer on scaffold ..... last century’s kettles
snarling on the stove ..... the electric
hum of the washing machine..... its stagger between cycles
..... a lawnmower ..... a drill
to snow imaginary whitewash on the courtyard below
..... where grass has never grown.
- first published in Stride magazine.