Red Wolf Editions Spring 2020: True Love

true love issue 16

Red Wolf Editions Spring 2020
Theme: True Love

An honorable human relationship…that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

—Adrienne Rich

On the subject of true love what are your thoughts? I guess you do not doubt that there’s such a thing in the Platonic realm. But in the world of sinners the quest is truly tricky. Of that forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, is there a sense of that present in true love, that true love is a test of character, involving a transgression of sorts? For without the breach there’s no struggle, no tried and tested. If true love is divinely ordained, there must be a struggle to find it. We’re searching for a divine union so as to enable a coming into knowledge (or rather knowing)? For in impediment do we grow. Not just love thoughtlessly, like mating rabbits. How else do we discover ourselves? How do we discover another except in how we love? Or how we are loved in return. Or not. Are we using the other person, wanting them for reasons other than love? Are we being loved or used? Love is blind they say, but that blindness does contain sight. True love is about seeing. We need to see and discern another person’s heart. Is it true? Or false? Only time will tell. So only time is a test of love.

Part of why true love is difficult is that we are so imperfect it is difficult to love truly. There seems no such thing as immaculate love—love is an expression in action, often involving sexual desire. In its passionate form it is a deep union. However it can and often is fraught with complications. Why? Because human nature is selfish. Inconstancy, fickleness, disagreement, illusion, self-sabotage, illness, third parties, all sorts of selfishness. Any of that can surface in your poems. All of which you are probably privy to being properly adult.

It is true isn’t it—we are not making this up. The institution of marriage enshrines the Platonic concept of true love. But being sanctified by church or temple does not mean that a marriage is sure to last. It is a union but is it lasting? The actual experience of a marriage is a test…of true love. It all goes back to a testing of this fundamental goal.
So what is true love? Is it something that has to be tried and tested? Does it need to have physical expression for it to have meaning? Sometimes it seems that the physicality of love dominates so its absence makes love intangible, unreal. On the other end of the spectrum, physical love is only one aspect of love and without all the other spiritual and practical aspects, true love fails. Love that is real providence—financially and everything–or captivated by mesmerising beauty, is that true love? Take away the providence, take away beauty, does love remain? As the fallen, we ask ourselves, is it real or is it fake? Is it an illusion of mirrors? Love is about seeing I said. Seeing the other person’s emotional core, all analysis and logic being pretty meaningless. What makes you fall in love with another person is beyond words. I guess poetry is as close to falling in love.

True love sounds testy, and it really is. What kind of a quest it is is a subject of interest in this issue. I believe that we’re all looking for a version of true love. In a way that it is the most important quest, it is the soul that is searching. Maybe we hope to find God (redemption) there, in so doing we become who we’re meant to become—our best selves. I want to hear your version of it. Does the quest interest you? We want poems about love in all its tender, or violent moments. Love poems in all its complexity. Real (even if imagined), touching poems.

Look at these lines from Li-Young Lee’s “Adore”:

This strewing and gathering
of Love’s face, of Love’s gaze, and only this,
begun in death’s audience, is the founding
action, call it the fundamental
paradise…did I say paradise?
I meant paradox…the fundamental paradox
of the breaths we breathe,
the thoughts we witness,
the kisses we exchange,
and every poem you write.

The idea of love beginning in “death’s audience”—how can love come through except through an awareness of the other’s mortality? I love you more because you and everything you represent will die and then the world will become a shadow of what we once had. Death is both literal and figurative. Lee once said, “My dream is love.” I suppose that will be our dream in this issue.

We don’t have to be limited to couple notions of love. The parental edition of true love seems the purest form of unconditional love. Brotherly or sisterly love, friendship based on love—are these acceptable notions of true love? The way a sister cares for an ill brother seems to me a remarkable statement of love. How does love, what love does to survive adversity or loneliness? How does love celebrate the beloved, what does it see? How love is a fixation, an anchor? How love exist even when the beloved is absent? And the fact of unrequited love. Can a lonely heart be in a good space? What about love even if your protagonist does not actually have a person to love or the person is gone? What is the calm after the storm? Love that is true and isn’t true.

Shall we just come right out and say it—true love is hard because it’s supposed to be unconditional. It’s agape. It is not eros is it? There’s such a gap there. Write about eros anyway. The world as a love poem—what does it mean? We want love stories. Remember John Lennon’s all you need is love. And Freddy Mercury’s I need somebody to love. How you choose to interpret love, to breathe love, that really matters. As Lady Gaga sings, we’re far from the shallow now…that resonates somehow. If you had not fallen in love, and loved deeply, and lost, would you call that as having lived? Love as abundance. Love as suffering. Love as discernment. True love is wisdom.

Above all to risk one’s heart–because it is a risky undertaking, your poems should try and reflect some of that complexity and not be a tad easy, too empty, too airy…if you know what I mean. You do want to leave the reader with something significant.

Here’s Mary Oliver’s “A Pretty Song” for inspiration.

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?

This isn’t a play ground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods

that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

—Mary Oliver, Thirst

Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: August to February 2019. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Spring 2020.

Good writing.

Irene Toh
Spring 2020

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