One-Minute Book Reviews

February 13, 2009

Valentine’s Day Poems for Straight or Gay Lovers, Including Couples Getting Engaged or Married on Feb.14, With All the Words Online

Two poems that aren’t usually thought of as Valentine’s Day poems contain lines that would suit longtime lovers, including engaged and married couples.

Robert Browning’s classic “Rabbi Ben Ezra” begins:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:

“Rabbi Ben Ezra” isn’t a love poem but a meditation in verse on the life of the 12th-century scholar in its title. But countless lovers have inscribed its famous first two lines, both written in iambic trimeter, onto the flyleaves of books or Valentine’s Day notes and cards. And all three would work for straight or gay couples. The full text of the poem appears online at Bartleby.com.

Another classic with lines that would suit gay or straight couples is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation from the German of Simon Dach’s “Annie of Tharaw.” It includes the rhyming couplets:

Oppression, and sickness, and sorrow, and pain,
Shall be to our true love as links to the chain.

As the palm-tree standeth so straight and so tall,
The more the hail beats, and the more the rains fall, –

So love in our hearts shall grow mighty and strong,
Through crosses, through sorrows, through manifold wrong …

Though forests I’ll follow, and where the sea flows,
Through ice, and through iron, through armies of foes.

“Annie of Tharaw” sounds less sophisticated than many contemporary poems, in part because of its anapestic meter, commonly found in children’s poems such as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” But Dach’s words may speak more directly than some of their modern counterparts to couples facing serious illnesses such as AIDS. Their sentiments implicitly ratify and amplify the “in sickness and in health” of wedding vows, so they would also suit anniversaries. The full text appears online at Litscape.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

June 15, 2007

‘Buying Dad: One Woman’s Search for the Perfect Sperm Donor’ Picks Up Where David Brooks’s Column in Today’s Times Left Off

David Brooks has an interesting op-ed column in today’s New York Times about the hazards of buying your offspring’s genetic material from a sperm bank. “What if parents are perpetually buying genes on the downward slope?” he wonders. “After all, for maximum success, you don’t want President Kennedy’s genes. You want Joseph Kennedy’s genes. You don’t want Bill Clinton’s genes. You want his father’s genes. What if we get the national equivalent of the 38th generation of the House of Windsor?

Harlyn Aizley explores related issues in her breezy memoir, Buying Dad: One Woman’s Search for the Perfect Sperm Donor (Alyson, $14.95, paperback), reviewed on this site on Oct. 19, 2006 http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/10/19/. Aizley and her lesbian partner found that “buying sperm is much like shopping at Sam’s Club or Costco.” But actually getting pregnant with those store-bought sperm proved much harder. Aizley’s wisecracking tone won’t appeal to everyone, but her step-by-step account of her experiences could be enlightening to both gay and straight parents who are considering this method of conception.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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