I don’t read much poetry, but when I do, it is because the title of the book has caught my attention. The short volume of poetry An Aromantic’s Love Song to the Populace by Niko Bouvier caught me by the title because I have a great desire for more love songs to be in the keys I know: to talk about friends and family and places rather than romantic love.
I did find what I was looking for, not in the title poem “An Aromantic’s Love Song to the Populace,” but the next poem, called “The Only Love Poem I’ll Ever Actually Mean.” That poem is a love song to a best friend, a love song to platonic love. It is a beautiful love poem in its own right.
I expected the whole book to be full of poems like that. The title of the book reminded me of my perceptions of Walt Whitman’s epic poem “Song of Myself,” which I haven’t read in its entirety but have heard a lot about, and so I expected something more like that, rambling and long, arms widespread to embrace the world and every person in it. I probably should have expected something different because the back cover reads: “Warnings For: death, love, blood, gore, discussion of mental health, explicit language, flowers, themes of birds, violence, and poetry.” But even having read that, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I got from the book than I expected.
I got my platonic love song and the hope that I too could find a relationship like that in “The Only Love Poem I’ll Ever Actually Mean.” From “An Aromantic’s Love Song to the Populace” I got a heartbreaking coming out story about not understanding the drive for romance and in turn having other people not understand how you can exist without the drive for romance. This poem speaks to the pain of being told you are wrong about how you feel and that there is something wrong with you, something broken inside you, and it illustrates how long that pain can take to heal. It will resonate with anyone who has been told that, for any reason. I learned about the experience of fighting mental illness and the stigma around mental illness from “I Think I Would Do OK If Asked to Face a Fear” and “A Moral (The Moral Is Shut the Fuck Up).” From “You Hold Enough Love in You to Kill a Thousand Men” I got a call to love my body, “even for a little while, even for this second.” The ending of the poem is violent and I’m not sure what to do with it, but the bulk of the poem is a simple and beautiful call to touch yourself, not sexually, but with intention and awe, aware of the beauty and the miraculous in every body. I got an expression of the desire to have a gender neutral body from “We Are Neither Male Nor Female Before God And I Am Neither Male Nor Female Before Myself, The Devil, And Humankind.” I got a love letter from the current self to the past self in “The Saddest Self-Love Poem You Can Imagine.” All of these poems express the emotions that are so universal, while also sharing specific experiences of the world that are unlike most people’s experiences, making them resonant and powerful tools for greater understanding between diverse groups of people.
I found other gems in these pages, along with a number of poems that didn’t speak to me at all, which were frequently the bloodiest, most violent poems in the book. However, I do think that the mix of “yes, exactly” and “I have no clue what you are talking about” is what I like about poetry. I am grateful to have this elegant volume of poetry in my hands and on my bookshelf.
Queerview Mirror is a semi-regular feature where Queereka contributors review a variety of media. Look for Queerview Mirror posts on Friday afternoons.