D. H. Lawrence’s first book of poems is Love Poems, and Others (1913). I read the 1915 edition, the copy at the Princeton Library, which was a bequest of Hamilton Cottier, class of 1922. Cottier, or someone, added a handwritten note on what the scan calls page iv, that the book “add[s] to the interesting, but far from satisfying, impression of Love that Lawrence gives” and is “Of minor interest and no importance as poetry.” Ouch! I have little temperamental sympathy for Lawrence, but I liked it more than that.
Sometimes, certainly, a poem falls into Lawrence kitsch, like a self-parody:
If only then
You could have unlocked the moon on the night,
And I baptize myself in the light
Of your love; we both have entered then the white
Pure passion, and never again. (from “Reminder,” p. 29)
Specifically, the “white / Pure passion” is what I am calling kitsch, but there are surely too many moons in this book.
Having said that, his voice is already original, truly his own, and he is thinking in terms of imagery that is his own:
I slept till dawn at the window blew in like dust,
Like the linty, raw-cold dust disturbed from the floor
Of a disused room: a grey pale light like must
That settled upon my face and hands till it seemed
To flourish there, as pale mold blooms on a crust. (from “Coldness in Love,” 21)
It took me some effort to understand that this sentence followed ordinary grammatical rules. The speaker does not sleep until dawn! Well, he does, but the sentence has other business. My point is more that this stanza could be plopped into a Lawrence novel with minor changes.
Sometimes Lawrence is playful in the way of poets. Assume a bee, a rose, a “you”:
Wait among the beeches
For your late bee who beseeches
To creep through your loosened hair till he reaches,
Your heart of dismay. (from “Song-day in Autumn,” 35)
Lawrence also experiments with loose long lines, long for English, with six or seven feet, if I am counting right, which I doubt (this is a complete poem):
A White Blossom
A tiny moon as white and small as a single jasmine
Leans all alone above my window, on night’s wintry
Liquid as lime-tree blossoms, soft as brilliant water or
She shines, the one white love of my youth, which
all sin cannot stain.
This poet really loves the moon.
Aside from the love poems, Love Poems contains a section of narrative poems in dialect, the highlight being “The Collier’s Wife,” where the title character is told her husband is injured and is in response almost too practical. It is a different kind of love poem:
An’ a fork an’ a spoon he’ll want, an’ what else;
I s’ll never catch that train –
What a trapse it is if a man gets hurt –
I s’d think he’ll get right again. (76)
The book ends with three poems under the heading “The Schoolmaster,” a glimpse of Lawrence’s frustrations (“I am sick, and tired more than any thrall,” 88) from his short time as a schoolteacher. The poems are a mix of the concrete and Lawrence weirdness:
But the faces of the boys, in the brooding, yellow light
Have shone for me like a constellation of stars,
Like full-blown flowers dimly shaking at the night,
Like floating froth on an ebbing shore in the moon. (from “A Snowy Day in School,” 82)
Maybe this is also a love poem. It uses the same language as the rest of the book.