Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Poet Couples

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Academy of American Poets posted this article on famous poet couples.

"All My Poems Are Love Poems": When Two Poets Fall In Love
by Craig Morgan

Profiles of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall; Interviews with C. D. Wright and Forrest Gander and Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop.

Love poetry is about as old as love itself, from Homer’s vision of Penelope’s steadfastness, to the biblical Song of Solomon, to Shakespeare’s sonnets for his Dark Lady (or, some speculate, Dark Lord), to Keats’s love songs for his own depression. Most poets, at one time or another, write their way into the hearts of their chosen lasses or lads, but sometimes something slightly more unusual happens: two poets fall in love with each other.

Now, one can say a lot of things about those who choose to dedicate their lives to poetry: they are passionate, bookish, impulsive, self-obsessed, boring, unique, obsessive, and often unstable. So when two poets fall in love, something interesting is bound to happen. Like all romances, things might go well, they might not, or, most likely, there’ll be a mix of both. Unlike most romances, however, when two poets hook up, it almost always leads to poetry.

Contemporary poet-couples join a long tradition. In 1846, the Victorian dramatic monologist Robert Browning married the gifted poet Elizabeth Barrett. The Browning’s 15-year marriage yielded some of the best-loved poems in the English language: his "Fra Lippo Lippi" and her Sonnets From The Portuguese, among others. The great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova had an ill-fated marriage to the young poet Nikolai Gumilyov. W. H. Auden fell into a fiery, at times damaging, romance with the poet Chester Kallman, who was fourteen years his junior. Their relationship produced many collaborations, including the libretto to Stravinsky’s famous The Rake’s Progress.

More recently, former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass married avant-garde hero Brenda Hillman. The union of the influential James Tate and Dara Wier has propelled the University of Amherst MFA program for years. Countless poets have fallen in love, shared, and sometimes ruined, each other’s lives.

Read the rest.

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