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:
I have to put away
every trace of you
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.
Alexandra Cichon is a senior studying English at the University of Connecticut. She is on the poetry panel at the Long River Review.