It's Love, Love, Love! - Simon & Garfunkel | Rita Dove, Major Jackson

Valentine's Day is coming up! A blog on poetry and music for teen-aged students would be incomplete without exploring the theme of love. Tonnes of songs and sonnets have been written about the euphoria of love and heartbreak. Reader response takes the forefront for these poems and lyrics.

Now this Simon & Garfunkel song is your typical lovestruck ballad but the obvious imagery and narrative style is too good to pass up. 

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her by Simon & Garfunkel
What a dream I had
dressed in organdy
clothed in crinoline
of smoky burgundy
softer than the rain

I wandered empty streets down
past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
dripping down the alley ways
as I walked on

and when you ran to me
your cheeks flushed with the night
we walked on frosted fields
of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand

and when I awoke
and felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair
with my grateful tears
oh, I love you
oh, I love you
I found these next two poems from an online teaching resource "Dream in Color" from the Poetry Foundation website (Research #16) featuring poems from famous African American writers. I'm a big fan of Rita Dove ever since I've read Thomas and Beulah for an American lit course in undergrad.  Rita Dove's poem "Heart to Heart" deconstructs the symbol of the organ of love, and looks at it rather literally.

Heart to Heart by Rita Dove
It's neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn't melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can't feel

It doesn't have
a tip to spin on,
it isn't even
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want
but I can't open it:
there's no key.
I can't wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it's all yours, now—
but you'll have
to take me,

Jackson's poem plays with the agony of high school crushes and hallway encounters with the prettiest girl in the school.

Urban Renewal XVIII by Major Jackson
How untouchable the girls arm-locked strutting
up the main hall of Central High unopposed
for decades looked. I flattened myself against
the wall, unnerved by their cloudsea of élan,
which pounced upon any timid girl regrettably
in their way, their high-wattage lifting slow motion
like curls of light strands of honey. The swagger
behind their blue-tinted sunglasses and low-rider
jeans hurt boys like me, so vast the worlds
between us, even the slightest whiff of recognition,
an accidental side glance, an unintended tongue-piercing
display of Juicy Fruit chew, was intoxicating
and could wildly cast a chess-playing geek into
a week-long surmise of inner doubts, likelihoods,
and depressions. You might say my whole life led
to celebrating youth and how it snubs and rebuffs.
Back then I learned to avoid what I feared
and to place my third-string hopes on a game-winning
basketball shot, sure it would slow them to a stop,
pan their lip-glossed smiles, blessing me with their cool.
Here are some questions I have in mind for the classroom:
  • Choose either of Simon & Garfunkel's ballad, Rita Dove's or Major Jackson's poem.  Which of the three declarations of love best replicate your views on infatuation or relationships?  Explain.
  • Describe Dove's short line structure and how it connects to the poem's message.  How does she describe the symbol of the heart?  In your opinion, what is the speaker trying to say literally and implicitly about love?
  • How does the speaker in Major Jackson's poem use hyperbole to describe his admiration for his high school crush?
  • Write a song or free verse poem describing your views on love or experiences of heartbreak.

All Pon and Zi cartoons by deviantartist Azuzephre were taken from www.ponandzi.com. I love Pon and Zi! <3 Aren't they cute?

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