Love If We Can Stand It

Love If We Can Stand It

By Bruce F. Kawin

This powerful collection of poems by Bruce F. Kawin deals with the nature and demands of love, from the sexual and romantic to the metaphysical, in an engaging variety of forms and voices. The poems are clear, fresh and vivid, with good stories and characters, and they relate plainly to real life.

Paperback, 96 Pages


October 2012

£9.99, $18.95

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

In this collection of his best poems, the product of 45 years of writing and rewriting, the relatively unknown American poet Bruce F. Kawin explores many aspects of love, from the romantic to the metaphysical and from sex to mourning. The breadth of voice and form is masterful, and the poems – which touch on the subjects of dreams, desire, death, nature, religion and language – are bold and evocative. As complex as they are, they relate plainly to real life. Although influenced by poets from Kenneth Koch to Denise Levertov and, before them, the “Pearl” poet, George Herbert, Robert Browning and Gertrude Stein, the poems are entirely original and belong to no school. Their intensity, inventiveness and playfulness should appeal to a variety of readers. The poems, whose speakers in most cases could be male or female, are open to readers of any gender or age. The only requirement is to take love and poetry seriously. The book includes a sestina from the point of view of a harried woman, a sonnet sequence reimagined as a slide show, a menu of potential love stories, a threnody about mixed feelings for God when a friend dies, a celebration of one-syllable words, a lesbian epic set in modern Greece and reimagined versions of “The Mummy's Ghost” and what really happened after “Bride of Frankenstein,” all of them charged with startling, moving and convincing visions of love. With his unique tone and subject matter, his good stories, his striking insights and his fresh, vivid language, Kawin reinvents and revives the love poem.


“This book of moving and insightful poems is only 85 pages long, but it took me quite a time to finish it because I found almost all of the poems to be thought provoking and so I felt a need to reflect on them. I usually prefer to listen to poetry rather than to read it, but this collection really engaged me. Some of the poems are just a few words or lines long; others are a few verses, whilst three are short-story length, almost novel-like in their breadth and intensity. In many ways each is very different, and a wide range of emotions is expressed; love, joy, friendship, anger, humour, sadness, disappointment. However, what Bruce F. Kawin has captured in all of them, through his powerful and evocative use of language, is an exploration of what makes us sentient beings.

As a personal read I found the book to be very moving and satisfying, but I am finding it difficult to rate it for groups; all will depend on whether or not the members enjoy reading poetry. So, I am giving it 3*** although the range from 1-5 would be equally applicable!!” — Linda Hepworth,

"It's a really beautiful, haunting piece of work, and I am grateful to have it."
—John Ashbery

“Bruce Kawin has astonished me with his long poem of devastating sequences, ‘Two Greek Women.’ Only a great movie thinker and a scholar could produce such characters, such fates, such sexuality and such everyday tragedy. I have known Kawin’s work since 1964, and I have already admired his theoretical work on repetition. What is surprising is how he uses anaphora and even Hebraic parallelism to come up with a song-like novel that gives one relentless shots of joy. Like the entire book, the poem is precise as a tour guide to the corazón, and its parts are also musical, a word that becomes meaningful here, while we know how often it is bafflingly fuzzy. But the poem is also as American as a road-show, and as in Chantal Akerman’s ‘A Whole Night’ we are never ineluctably sure that we know what all these break-ups indicate – this acceptance of a drift, a drive, a situation... from the 1960s as much as from tomorrow.

Kawin takes his knowledge of endlessness, of Stein, of the New York School and of cinema and focuses them in these poems. His sinuous strategy reaches toward something classic, Greek, and wildly fresh and original. It seems to me simply a triumph of what poetry can do, can be, can be about without mere aboutness. I read it as an experience out of Dewey: it seems inexhaustible as youth and age to me. Maybe many readings from now I will simply accept it as a journal of poetry with breadth and depth and humanity. What more can one ask for? This book contains duets for multitudes.” —David Shapiro, author of “Lateness,” “To an Idea” and “Mondrian's Flowers”

“Bruce Kawin, genius behind a theoretical book on the uses of repetition in literature and the scholar-editor of texts on film, has here collected his love poems. ‘Love If We Can Stand It’ is unabashedly composed with deep care and caring. Follow his repetition as you would heartbeat, footfall and song.” —Kimiko Hahn

Author Information

Bruce F. Kawin is an American poet born in Los Angeles in 1945. He holds an AB in English from Columbia University, and an MFA in poetry and filmmaking and a PhD in modern literature and film from Cornell University. He studied under Kenneth Koch, A. R. Ammons and, informally, Denise Levertov. He is currently a professor of English and film at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His poems have appeared in “Epoch,” “Hanging Loose,” “The Paris Review” and other publications.


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Table of Contents

A New Song; Cardboard;  Menu; Old Frankenstein; One, or Words for Poetry; One Two; Slides; Geometry of Dawn; The Astonished Spoon; A Wells Fargo in San Francisco; Five Weeks; The Constant Lover; Star; On the Way; The First One is Paper; Sestina: Lunch; The Trees; I Was Weeping for Beautiful Japan; Two Greek Women


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