Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership
TEACHING THE COMPASSIONATE USE OF POWER

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Review of Love Comes First: A Collection of Poems by Woodhull Board Member, Erica Jong

Posted by stephanie at 12th July, 2009

by Victoria Olsen (Writers 7)

If love comes first, what comes second?  Death, Jong implies in this collection of mature poems by the well-established feminist writer.  She writes about losing friends, hospital visits, aging relationships, but also the immortality of art and beauty.  The common denominator in this diverse and accomplished collection is love, the glue that holds all these relationships together and makes the struggles bearable.  In a particularly moving poem about a friend’s last days she begins by speculating that on the continental divide “a drop of rain/ must decide/whether to roll east or west.”  By the end she knows that “that drop of rain decided/to roll west with the setting sun,/taking you along.”  It is a beautiful image and leads her to the central question of the collection: “Is death the aberration–/or is life?”

Who is to say? For Jong, the answer seems to be less important than the question and she poses many good ones in this collection.  She speaks candidly to Aphrodite herself, asking if she can give up worshipping her.  But the answer surprises her.  Just as Jong embraces words and indulges in sensuous descriptions of “mandarin oranges/love apples/honey in a jar,” Aphrodite interrupts to rebuke her:
You who put your trust
in words when flesh decays,
know that even words
are swept away–
and what remains?

Aphrodite’s smile–
the foam at her rosy feet
where the dying dolphins play.

Erudite and thoughtful, these poems turn in on themselves to suggest that love does indeed conquer all, even death.  The losses are redeemed because “in [Aphrodite's] turning/all endings end/ and all beginnings begin.”  Love, Jong tells us, comes first and last.

About stephanie

Stephanie Kirby has written 38 articles on this blog.

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates / Culture

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