Why do I hate love poems?
I have a deep aversion to most poems that pass off as love poems now. You know the type. They are almost always chock-full of the many cliches that have now come to characterise such works. You have the general idea. The stanzas upon stanzas of bleeding-heart verses that the poet obviously did not mean or could not have meant. Due to their sheer volume, popularity and propagation, the most harmful effect these poems have is that they limit the layman’s view of what poetry, as a form of art and expression, can be. A bunch of beginner poets too get sucked into a circle of mediocrity where they are content with these overdone verses, extolling the beauty of the lover (common tropes — moon, flowers, etc.), with a hint of sensuality (lips, eyes, etc.), etc. The tropes themselves may change and some innovation is sometimes seen here but the general idea of the poem. That never changes.
Why do I hate these poems then? It is not very easy to explain. Some things we tend to love or hate for no particular reason, simply out of spirit. I think I dislike these poems simply because (I think) they are not rooted in the reality of the human nature. The ‘love’ expressed in such poems is completely selfless and I consider such an idea to be biologically untenable and very unrealistic. Before you blame me for bringing science into art, please hear me out.
How can the sense of self-interest be separated from any emotion? Even when not directly expressed, it is the underlying basis for all of our decisions. Our concerns and ideas emanate from this very sense and it is to fulfil this that we act upon them. Consider, for example, the height of bollywoodesque love, the ultimate sacrifice that the hero makes for the heroine in letting her go (तुम्हारी खुशी में ही मेरी खुशी है). This may look like a selfless act but I don’t think it is, because letting her go satisfies the hero’s sense of altruism and provides him gratification.
To end this (incoherent ?) rant, let me just present the other possibility. What if a poem does account for the our innate nature, our weaknesses and our failings? It gives up that ornate but fake aura of idealism and embraces the cold reality of desire, lust and ‘love’. No magic is lost in its doing so. Instead, a beautiful piece of work comes into being. It is a born classic. The similes, the allegories, the metaphors, they all come alive now. Even a few cliches can be pardoned.
When I say “accounting for our nature”, I don’t expect the poet to go all GRRM and start a gory bloodshed. But at least get us a little something. Maybe give us a glimpse into our many deformities. Show us the sight of love that was left unfulfilled? Love never returned? Love that fades away with time? The love that was never acknowledged? Only when such realities are noticed, recognised and incorporated, can the very best of poems in this genre be written down. Some of my favourite poems have such a character and I plan to jot down a few thoughts on some of them in the near future.