Poetry vs Grindr: On Writing Love Poems to Boys

In the lead-up to his Midsumma writing workshop on Writing Love Poems to Boys, Writers Victoria interviews Castlemaine poet Terry Jaensch about the power of the love poem.

Writers Vic: Is love poetry really better than Grindr?

Terry Jaensch: It depends what you’re after. But if you want something a bit more considered, in a form that perhaps demands that we sit with and sort our thoughts before broadcasting them, then love poetry it is. That said, it might be an interesting test to see what and where a love poem will get you on Grindr.

WV: Is there a canon of boys writing love poems to boys?

TJ: I’d argue there is, you only have to think on the list of poets, some expected some unexpected: Walt Whitman, Thom Gunn, Federico Garcia Lorca, Paul Verlaine, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg. There’s even some conjecture as to whom Shakespeare wrote his sonnets.

WV: Who does it well?

TJ: I’m particularly fond of Thom Gunn, Whitman and there are a handful of very revealing pieces by Paul Verlaine that evidence his conflicted sexuality, which are intense reading. Of course, the list could go on …

WV: Do you have a favourite love poem that was written from one man to another?

TJ: Whitman’s ‘When I Heard At The Close Of Day’ and Robert Adamson’s ‘Action Would Kill It/A Gamble’: both for their candour and simplicity.

When the beach ended,

we would have split up. And as he spoke

clearly and without emotion

about the need for action, about killing people,

I wanted him.

Robert Adamson

WV: Can it be more exposing to show ourselves in words than in pictures?

TJ: With poetry I think we are showing ourselves in pictures/images, it’s just that words are the vehicle. With regard to exposure, I think it’s less about the words/image or picture, and more about the revelation: what does each reveal (intended or unintended) and how comfortable are we with the revelation?

WV: What makes a love poem a love poem? Does it have to include the words?

TJ: Someone else: the subject being someone other than ourselves. Love poems are often better for not including the word love.

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