Poet's Pick April 1
Catullus: "I hate and I love"
Selected by Henri Cole
National Poetry Month 2017

Letter from the Editors

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Thank you so much for your support! Enjoy today's special poem and commentary from 2002!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller

Henri Cole's Poetry Month Pick, April 1, 2017

"I hate and I love"
by Catullus (c. 84 - 54 BC)

I hate and I love. And if you ask me how,
I do not know: I only feel it and I'm torn in two.


* Henri Cole Comments:
In this poem, two roughly iambic lines give us a miniature epic of the heart. "I hate and I love," the disillusioned speaker says, experiencing the paradox of love for another, which coexists in the soul with hate. It is the same paradox we feel in Genesis, where God creates man to feel persistent discontent, though full of blessings. What kind of a God would do that? A very human one to be sure, who wanted man to always need Him. Like lovers, Catullus' two long lines become more potent by being joined together; the poem of language reinforces the poem of emotion. "I do not know," Catullus tells us, unafraid to reveal his own ignorance. The intelligent poet must always be able to say, I do not know, as he or she is trying to see beyond the surface of reality into the deepest places, not of man's grief, but of man's truths, which cut deep — if they do not tear us apart — like a field of thorn and shadow, where there are goat smells and little cries and saliva and hooves pawing and flying beetles and a changing light that filters and breathes against the lonely surface of everything.

Henri Cole:
Henri Cole is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Nothing to Declare.  A prose work, Orphic Paris, is forthcoming from The New York Review of Books.

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