Give me more love, or more disdain

Considering, in his Introduction to English Poetry (2002), what a poet does to get attention, James Fenton quoted this work song from the American South as an example of rhythm, raised voice and suggestiveness:

Well I led her – hunh –
To de altar – hunh;
And de preacher – hunh –
Give his command – hunh –
And she swore by – hunh –
God that made her – hunh;
That she’d never – hunh –
Love another man – hunh.

In his editing of the The New Faber Book of Love Poems, Fenton might be said to be focusing on the hunh, or the moments where language subsides under a surge of meaning. Many of the poems he has chosen have an exuberant sense of their own difficulty, of the uselessness of chat and the need to let music, image and gesture take charge. Auden observed that we break into song when we reach a level of feeling at which ordinary speech won’t do. When poets write about love, they too break into song, no matter how musical, or not, they were to begin with.

more from the TLS here.