The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Love Poem” is a twenty-four-line poem in six stanzas of four lines each; the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme. Although the oddly generic title is an accurate description of the poem, its very generality also provides the reader with a subtle clue that this may not be a traditional example of love poetry.

Indeed, in the poem’s first three words, the speaker directly addresses his beloved as “My clumsiest dear.” The woman he loves, as the reader quickly learns, breaks nearly everything that encounters her “quick touch.” Her hands wreak disasters—they “shipwreck vases”—and chip glasses. They are like proverbial bulls in a china shop, he says, and they catch in fine cloth like the burrs of weeds. The poem’s first four stanzas follow an alternating pattern in which stanzas 1 and 3 depict the woman’s clumsiness and stanzas 2 and 4 describe the qualities that make the speaker love her in spite of it.

In stanza 2, the tone suddenly becomes gentler as he states that her clumsiness disappears where “ill-at-ease” people with troubles are concerned. She can make a refugee, standing uncomfortably in the doorway, feel at home. She “deftly” steadies the drunkard for whom the very floor seems to be moving. Stanza 3 returns to her awkwardness in the physical world, humorously explaining that she has no depth perception—a dangerous situation when traffic is involved. She is “the taxi driver’s terror.”...

(The entire section is 510 words.)