These Poems, She Said

These poems, these poems,

these poems, she said, are poems

with no love in them. These are the poems of a man   

who would leave his wife and child because   

they made noise in his study. These are the poems   

of a man who would murder his mother to claim   

the inheritance. These are the poems of a man   

like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not   

comprehend but which nevertheless

offended me. These are the poems of a man

who would rather sleep with himself than with women,   

she said. These are the poems of a man

with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s   

hands, woven of water and logic

and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These   

poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant   

as elm leaves, which if they love love only   

the wide blue sky and the air and the idea

of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,   

and not a beginning. Love means love

of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.   

These poems, she said...

                                       You are, he said,


                That is not love, she said rightly.

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  1. In the opening lines, the words “these poems” are repeated three times. What does the repetition tell us about the feeling and emotion of being in an argument?
  2. The intermingled use of “he,” “she,” and “I” in the poem might lead to confusion over who is saying what and to whom specific feelings or responses can be attributed. Might this ambiguity be intentional? Reflect on and play with Bringhurst’s use of pronouns. With different pens or highlighters, mark the sentences or feelings that you think belong to each of the two interlocutors.
  3. 3. Bringhurst’s poem is about an assortment poems we don’t actually see or hear, though we do get the impression that the “she” is not terribly impressed by them. Why isn’t she impressed?
  4. Do you read this as a love poem or as an argument between lovers? Could it be both?
  5. The use of ellipsis near the end of the poem marks a transition where the “he” in the poem cuts off the “she.” How does she respond? What does this poem teach us about love or its absence?
  6. Practise reading this poem with a partner. Sit across from one another and alternate lines. Switch roles. Think of the words as a conversation between passionate, playful individuals, who continue to love one another and might even enjoy arguing.
  7. Write a poem that is a dialogue between you and a friend/family member, using the she/he/they method of Bringhurst’s poem. What do you and this individual agree about? Disagree about?


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Bibliographical info

Robert Bringhurst, “These Poems, She Said” from The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected Poems 1972–1982. Copyright © 1982 by Robert Bringhurst.

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