Review of Tsunami of Love

Tsunami Of Love: A Poems Cycle by Eddie Woods
Ins & Outs Press, PO Box 3759, 1001 AN Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
ISBN: 1 90 70460-07-6.

Eddie Woods wrote this poems cycle in response to a crisis which arose at the collapse of a six year relationship in 2004 with ‘the girl of his dreams,’ Jenny. As it says in the blurb on the back cover, There was no way out of this tunnel but on the wings of song. This poems cycle tells the story of the rise and fall of an incredible love affair. And it must have been so to produce poetry like this.

One tsunami, two tsunamis,
three tsunamis, four.
I live on the edge
of total recall,
slipping now & then
along the fault-lines
of a once titanic love
that gradually grew small
and suddenly was over,
at least for you.
Yet it didn’t seem over
as the end drew nigh.
Our candle burned so brightly
on those final nights,
it was easy to believe
its flame would never die.

Yet the language of love mingles easily with the more carnal language of lust which immediately follows.

I was the first man to go down on you.
(“I often thought of you doing that.” you said.)
And also the first to take you from behind.

And, as it should, the carnal language of lust merges with the mystical.

I wanted to be with you
aeons before I was born.
Wanting is a seed,
it gives birth to trouble.
But oh the fire!
The splendor of its fury
puts the sun’s surface to shame.

Just as lust has everything to do with love, love has everything to do with mystical transcendence, which in turn gives back on to lust.

How’s your sex-life these days?
Can you feel me watching you as he enters?
I’m watching, all right, and my cock is hard
When you fondle his balls I cup your breasts.
As he parts your legs, I softly stroke your thighs,
massaging your clitoris the moment he penetrates.

None of this language is incongruous with the mystical element in the cycle. Indeed, it reinforces it. For we are not dealing with incorporeal ‘spirituality’ here, but one of a very carnal variety. Besides, we should remember that the poet is writing out of a sense of loss, and he is reconfiguring his experiences now at a distance, reliving them in memory alone. This poems cycle needed the break-up to get itself written, as all great love poetry does. In the end what’s left?

Hear from you when I hear.
And if not, what to do?
Over is over,
a shadow of missing endures.

What is transparent in the cycle is how much of himself the poet has put into it. None of Eliot’s “impersonality” here. Yet without this commitment of himself to the poetry, how could he have arrived at his unified oscillating perspective from the carnal to the mystical? The mystical element is most to the fore in Divine Enchantment – for Jenny, written at the start of the affair and which I shall take the liberty of quoting in full, because I think it’s so good.

Who art thou, magic Princess,
secret lady of wild tempestuous beauty?
Ah, but I know: thou art the dream
my soul was dreaming
long before my flesh was born,
the abiding oneness
towards whose passionate embrace
I was steadily being drawn
even whilst engaged in disruptive adventures.
Thou art what poetry means to be,
what painting aspires to,
what music always is.
Thou art an horizonless reality
where truth forever dwells,
nor sun nor moon shall ever set,
a light so pure as to make the night
emulate the clearest day,
a wine of such rare bouquet
I feel so bold and dare to say
for my taste alone is thy nectar meant.
Thou art the harmony of all beings,
the undying essence of created goodness.
Thou art my life, my endearment,
the mirror of true joy: the thrill of Eternity.

To those who think that such language, these days, should only be written as pastiche, I can only say that it is for me in exactly the right register for the emotions it has to convey. Thanks to the language, it resonates as a genuinely spiritual utterance to which pastiche would be entirely alien. As for squaring it with the more carnal moments in the poetry, the poet himself gives the answer.

Only on pyres
of unrestrained sex,
all thought burned to ashes,
do I truly petition God.
The answers resound
in poetry’s creation.

There has been very little really good love poetry published in English of late. It could be that our reductive culture militates against it. The love poetry that I often receive as an editor I usually reject because the language it is couched in is of a highly conventional kind. It doesn’t go to the limits of its theme, but stays within the confines of a ‘love’ which this society is keen to promote. Love is a highly destabilising emotion; it is an emotion or state of mind akin to madness itself. We often hear, in relation to Chaos & Complexity Theory, about new kinds of creative order arising out of “far from equilibrium states” to transcend entropy. It is as if we needed to become insane to achieve a higher and more complete kind of sanity. It is certainly this higher and more complete kind of sanity which Eddie Woods has achieved, if this poems cycle is anything to go by. Because it will not be content with a conventional language of expression, a profound love will produce a profound poetry, and it is precisely such poetry which Eddie Woods has achieved in this volume.

Richard Livermore

This review originally appeared in Chanticleer Magazine (Edinburgh, Scotland), issue no. 12 – January 2006

Tsunami of Love (the book and/or the cd) can be purchased here

The Kindle edition is available here