Lauren Yates's interaction with Kim Addonizio's What Is This Thing Called Love.
What Is This Thing Called Love
In twelfth grade, I took Creative Writing as my elective. My teacher ran red lights in his boxy, little Jeep, drawing cars to a screeching halt. His breath smelled like stale coffee. A single booger always hung from his nose. My mother said he looked “trapped in the eighties,” which had ended almost twenty years prior. His favorite color was eggplant, but he would have crossed out “eggplant” in red pen and written “aubergine.”
In class, this teacher showed us Billy Collins’ “Paradelle for Susan.” He explained that Billy Collins invented the paradelle as a parody of the villanelle. With the paradelle, Collins remained so loyal to the form, that several lines in the poem did not make grammatical sense. This was jab at young poets that follow every rule of writing formal poetry at the expense of the poem’s quality.
Inspired by Billy Collins, I wrote my own response to the paradelle that I called a “miradelle.” If Billy Collins could write a parody of a villanelle (a paradelle), then I could write a mirror of a paradelle (a miradelle). I proudly submitted my assignment and awaited my teacher’s comments.
When I got my assignment back, my teacher had marked up the grammatical errors. He missed the entire point, even though he was the teacher. That was the moment I began to see through him. How he had kissed my cheek when I asked him to be my advisor. How he had rubbed my shoulders in a meeting with my peers and his colleagues. I was seventeen. What was his excuse?
My freshman year of college, we were assigned to write a sonnenizio. My professor read “Sonnenizio on a Line from Drayton” from Kim Addonizio’s collection What Is This Thing Called Love. After class, I tried to find the source of Drayton’s first line: “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.” I accidentally typed “William Drayton,” instead of Richard, and got pages of hits on Flava Flav.
Instead of a sonnet, I took the first line of my sonnenizio from Meshell Ndegeocello’s album The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams. I repeated the word “man” like a prayer. Kim Addonizio said the sonnenizio tackles the impossibility of everlasting love. When I handed in the poem, I miswrote the date as 1/4/08, as if I were still seventeen.
At seventeen, Kim Addie learned that her grandparents had shortened their last name from “Addonizio” to “Addie” after immigrating from Italy. She then changed her name back to its full form.
I have always admired people with nicknames as first names. After fifty-five years, my grandfather thought my grandmother’s nickname was her full name. Sometimes Kim is simply a Kim, and not a Kimberly. What is this thing called love? Less about power, more about fit.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.