Why Lang Leav Should Be Your Post Valentine’s Day Read

by Alexandra Cichon

A poem by Lang Leav. (Photo/Creative Commons)

A poem by Lang Leav. (Photo/Creative Commons)

If you spent your Valentine’s Day single and lamenting happy couples, fear not, you may still have a chance at romance. And you may find that hope in Lang Leav, bestselling author of three books of poetry, Memories, Love & Misadventure, and Lullabies. Besides winning the 2014 Goodreads Choice award for her poetry, she is a master at artfully discussing all things romance. Much of her work shies away from poetic clichés. You will not be disappointed to find her journey of love as heartbreaking, raw, and real. Her poems ignite an experience of one of the rawest and truest human emotions, which catapults them into a spectacle of relatability.

In Love and Misadventure, her poem “Three Questions” personifies the feelings accompanied with love: Gratitude, Joy, and Sorrow. “What was it like to lose him?” Sorrow asks. The poem ends on a heartbreaking note—“it was like hearing every goodbye ever said to / me—said all at once.” Many of her poems wrap themselves up into melancholic tones, searing at the way love can callously burn you. However, her style is unapologetically simple and short, which beautifully contrasts and minimizes the complication of romance. In “The Things We Hide” she writes:

And so,

I have to put away

the photographs,

every trace of you

I know.

The things that seem

to matter less,

are the ones

we put on show.

Many of these poems look at the consequences of relationships and at the all-too-real feelings of break ups and lost loves. The poems stick to traditional forms of structure, with ballads found throughout. However, the occasional prose poem reopens the door to a more confessionary angle. “Soul Mates” is one of these poems.

What Leav is exceptional at is expressing complex questions and emotions that are difficult to articulate out loud. That is where the connection between these poems and readers exists—not in their cheesy lovey dovey bits, but in what seems like someone figuring out all of these love idioms for us, as if we are listening to an older friend recount his or her romantic history. In “Soul Mates” she breaks down what a soul mate feels like, not what they are. She writes: “it feels less like I am getting to know you and more as though I am remembering who you are.” Her poems revolve around feeling and experience as opposed to literal meaning, emphasizing the dichotomy between connection and seclusion in love.

The day before Valentine’s Day, Leav tweeted out her poem “A Postcard” and prefaced it with, “A quick reminder if you’re single this Valentine’s Day.” The poem, a future letter to a soul mate, reminds all of us single people that despite our current state of loneliness, that lucky someone is waiting out there—we simply have yet to find them. Leav’s ability to be truthfully raw and recognize the intricacies of what is sometimes simplified in movies and poems allows her work to speak volumes, taking form in many different voices—a confusing adolescent voice, a wise and mature voice, and a sad, haunted voice. One important line confesses: “I often think of where you are and if you’re happy. Are you in love? I hope she is gentle.”

Her poetry is that of a couple in love, of a hopeless romantic, or of a cynic hurt by the person they trusted. Read Leav because you will find yourself in her art, whether you are an aforementioned cynic, or hopeless romantic. You are bound to find yourself in any of her voices. It is certainly worth the time and effort to invest in—even post-Valentine’s Day—to discover something deeper than the commercialized love thrown at you by Cupid and Hallmark.

You can buy her three books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Alexandra Cichon is a senior studying English at the University of Connecticut. She is on the poetry panel at the Long River Review.

L(RR) is for…

Warning: It’s that time of year. You already know what this post is about.

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Since there’s been love, and language of course, there have been words, infinite words, written about love.  In fact, many would argue that love is one of, if not the, most pervasive topic in literature.  A recent article by Daniel Jones details what he has noticed as the New York Times “Modern Love” columnist about “How We Write About Love.” Over the years, Jones has noted the differences and universals in writing about love across age, gender, sexual orientation, perspective, circumstance, distance, and of course, that fickle friend or nemesis to love, time.  He admits, romantically enough:

“Writing about love can be similar to falling in love in that we must be as vulnerable on the page as we are in person when revealing ourselves to someone we hope will love us back. That means exposing our flaws and weaknesses and trusting we will be seen as more appealing, not less, for having done so.

Good writing about love features the same virtues that define a good relationship: honesty, generosity, open-mindedness, curiosity, humor and self-deprecation.”

Valentine’s Day is a day in particular people feel compelled to write about love – they might write a poem, send a letter, card, homemade Valentine, or in today’s direction, a thoughtful text, or email to some special someone.

I’ve compiled a (very) short timeline charting words about love – admitting it, declaring it, contemplating it, – from great writers, lyricists, and ordinary people.

1477 

The first recorded Valentine (in the English language) is a letter from Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston in February.  The Paston family were English aristocrats from Norfolk, and the collection of their letters are one of the largest of English correspondence that still exists.  Margery’s letter opens:

Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill delivered. 

The original letter is pictured below and can be read in full here.

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1819-1820

3_2

Among some of the most famous love letters in the world are those of English poet John Keats to his lover, Fanny Brawne.  Their affair was one often from a distance, made trying and then tragic by Keat’s financial struggles and battle with tuburculosis, from which he died in 1821 at age 25.  None of Fanny’s letters to Keats have ever been found, but his have been collected and immortalized.  He refers to her as “My Dearest Girl,” and writes eloquently of the pain of their frequent separation, and the threat of his impending death.  His most famous poem about their love is “Bright Star Would I Were Steadfast”:

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Poets.org

1994

As poignant as Keats words are, a recent poll conducted by the UK’s Daily Mail had him coming in third for “Greatest Love Letter.”  Despite their openly tumultuous relationship, the winner was chosen by the Internet to be the late Johnny Cash’s letter to wife June Carter Cash on her 65th birthday which read:

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A Little Late on the OSC Train

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Late last year, the issue of Orson Scott Card’s political views came back into the public light in full force with the impending release of the film version of his critically acclaimed novel Ender’s Game. Everyone wanted to have their say on the matter criticizing him. There was even a major boycott of the film: Skip Ender’s Game. People supporting this movement didn’t care what was in the book or even how the movie was going to compare. They only cared that, as a result of this movie’s success, money would potentially be going into the pockets of this man with whom they disagreed vehemently.

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Now, I may be a little late to the game here, but there is no denying Card’s views on marriage. As a profoundly religious Mormon man, it is of no surprise to me that he opposes the idea of gay marriage. I am, however, surprised at how vehement and hateful he can sound while speaking his mind. I do not agree with these views and I do not like Card as a person because of these views. (I do find it interesting that Ender’s Game has been banned before on the grounds of profanity, sexuality and racism, of which I find no problem with the first and none of the other two.) However —I’m going to make a very controversial statement right now, be warned!— he remains my favorite author of all time.

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When I was a freshman in high school, my mother, an avid science fiction and fantasy fan like myself, gave me my first copy of Ender’s Game. Corners and binding bent, it was obviously well read. It took me only a few days to get through the whole thing and I was hooked. The message of love, tolerance, and acceptance echoing throughout and impressive character development had me looking to devour every bit of this man’s writing that I could.

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Over the years I read the entirety of the Ender Quintet (Ender’s Game, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) and the Shadow Quintet (Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, and Shadows in Flight), as well as all the short stories and prequels in the Enderverse. The questionable political views so many people have issues with are conspicuously absent from every single one of these books.

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Even in those books separate from this relatively secular sci-fi universe and more grounded in reality these views do not come to the surface. The book Lost Boys contained a rare link to Card’s religious belief, the main character and his family being Mormon, and the religious culture pervaded throughout the text in an interesting and enlightening way. There was nothing hateful or political about it. First and foremost, it was a story of faith, parenthood, and psychological horror.

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In all my experience with his writing, I have never once seen Card’s undesirable political tendencies expressed within his genius fiction. That’s right. I call it genius. As disappointed and disillusioned as I have become with my favorite author as a person, nothing has changed. I still love his writing. Despite all this controversy, I refuse to deprive myself of experiencing works of genius. I will continue to read books by Orson Scott Card, and —GASP!— buy them, too. Not because I support him as a person, but because I support him as an author, my favorite author.

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Now, my question is: Why should I care about Card’s political views when his works do not reflect them? Why should I have boycotted the Ender’s Game film, which I went to and saw only a message of acceptance and tolerance? Can someone please tell me why some people are so militantly against him as a person that they completely ignore everything he has ever done as an author?

Grá Fómhair – Autumnal Love

What better way to celebrate the glorious reds, oranges, and yellows of November—the brisk air, the hot tea, the annual newfound surprise of mittens, scarves, and caps—than with a love story? Our 2013 print issue of Long River Review included a Foreign Literatures section. We purposefully published these pieces—two in Irish and one in Spanish—in their native languages with no accompanying translation in order to assert our belief that our increasingly polycultural world requires a knowledge of various languages. We wanted our readers to struggle a little bit. We wanted readers to try to understand the beauty of the written words in the original languages, even if they could not understand the literal meaning, to try to translate the pieces on their own, and to realize that all translations are separate works of art that serve as approximations of the originals.

However, for those readers who nevertheless love literal meaning (myself included), we are providing the English translation of Lisa Nic An Bhreithimh’s piece, “Grá Fómhair.” The original can be found in the 2013 print issue of Long River Review and copies are still available for sale at a small price at the UConn Co-Op.

Lisa Nic An Bhreithimh

Lisa Nic An Bhreithimh

First, a bit about Lisa:

Lisa Nic An Bhreithimh was a Fulbright Irish language T.A. at the University of Connecticut during the 2012-2013 academic year. Her three loves in life are people, writing and An Ghaeilge (the Irish language).

Without further ado…take it away, Lisa!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Autumnal Love”

West Kerry, Ireland, August 1910.

She would never forget the day she’d seen him for the first time.

Autumn had arrived and the leaves were rusty and crisp. No artist could create a more beautiful masterpiece than this one laid out before her. There was a light breeze still in the air from summer and there were blackberries still on the branches. She walked slowly into the park through the rusty iron gates, breathing in the air of the autumn and letting it fill her lungs. There was a new taste in the air that she hadn’t tasted in a long time—the taste of autumn and the scent of summer carefully entwined, full of fallen leaves and the heat of the summer’s end. She closed her eyes in the quiet and the gentle lapping of the river reached her ears like a quiet melody, the small waves hitting against the pebbles on its bed. Everything was calm and quiet.

It was as though she could feel his presence there before she met him. As though they were somehow connected, as though they were linked before they’d ever known each other. She had always felt at ease in this country park but on this great day she felt more comfortable than ever. As comfortable as she possibly could. She could feel the heat of the air in every part of her body and her mind and her bones were calm. She knew that there was something different about this day, something that would separate it from the rest. Just then she saw two swans out on the river close by, the color of snow on their feathers. She saw him then, standing on the grass of the riverbed. She looked at his eyes in the brightness of the water.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she replied quietly.

With that, the two swans broke from the water and flew away together into the sky.