The 2019 installment of The Poetry Porch invited submissions according to a suggested theme, storge, the tender love for someone familiar. Categorizing love into several manifestations, (eros, love as the forceful motivator, agape, a generous love for humankind, caritas the love that seeks benefit for humankind, philia, friendship, xenia, hospitality), the Greeks emphasize storge as a tender affection. The focus on tenderness implies a harmony between two individuals, relatives, neighbors, that is unforced, unifying, and even comforting. Czeslaw Milosz, whose A Book of Luminous Things inspired this project, explains that for his anthology he selected “mostly poems that express warm feelings” (177). Yet he also notes how feelings of all kinds (love, hate, fear, etc.) bind us to one another. It is interesting to note that the poetry and prose on these Poetry Porch pages are tender and anxious, wry and provocative, grateful and cautious.
Elizabeth Reeke’s verses are more rapturous than simply tender in their praise of lessons with a master musician, in lines that express a longing to merge with the absolute. Steven Riel records the gentility of a fellow teacher, awkward during yoga yet well-coordinated in his lonely work as a tutor. Bruce Bennett’s narrator is melancholic over his failure to transform a flighty student, yet with an ironic consideration for his ambition as a teacher. Ted Richer’s Uncle Nathan is vigilant with defiance and humor in deposing an usurper in the local synagogue. George Kalogeris receives a chilly reception from the guides that emerge from the shadows of his memory and culture. Tom Daley creates a portrait of a the day in the life of a poet he admired, composing at his desk in the morning, organizing poetry slams at night, in rich figurative language the master would have encouraged.
While Milosz emphasizes tenderness as an antidote to the harshness he witnessed in the second World War, we poets seem less motivated by intense experiences than by intensely felt worries. We look on our mentors with a lump in our throats. Did we overlook their influence? Were they aware of the example they showed us? Have we thanked them enough? If the relationship soured and began to smother, were we at fault?
We would agree with Milosz that, as we write our poems, we do not look for reward from our contemporaries as much as we hope to provide a clarity of vision for the future generations. With an eye on the future, on our roles as teachers, mentors, and advisers, we remind ourselves that it is necessary to know who we are, how we evolved in society’s web, the context of those we came to admire, and to beware of false ministers.
Milosz, Czeslaw, A Book of Lumious Things. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1998.