Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Certainly “Heart’s Limbo” is a poem about the central importance of love in human life, but it seems to focus more on vulnerability—both the risk and pain of love in addition to the intense human need for it. Kizer writes in “A Month in Summer,” a long poem that chronicles the end of a love affair, that for her one of the endearing qualities of male Japanese poets is their “overwhelming impulse, when/ faced with hurt or conflict, to stay in bed under/ the covers!” They too understand vulnerability.

Any reader who is familiar with “Pro Femina,” Kizer’s widely known feminist poem about the status of women, may not at first think of her as a writer who is sensitive to the delicacy of love. However, love has always been one of her primary themes, beginning with her poem “Lovemusic,” published in The New Yorker when she was only seventeen. Several of the love poems in her first book, The Ungrateful Garden (1961), are filled with lush opulence, images from classical mythology, or paradoxes and metaphysical concerns that are vaguely reminiscent of English poet John Donne. “Heart’s Limbo,” with its contemporary, bloody images, offers an abrupt contrast to the more mannered poems.

She has written of love in its various guises, including sensuous poems of physical love such as “The Light” and bleak poems of lost love such as “A Widow in Wintertime,” where the yowl of mating cats reminds the widow...

(The entire section is 477 words.)