My analysis of a poem we studied at school:
40-Love by Robert McGough
Here is another poem about love – but a rather tricky relationship. The first thing that must be noted upon viewing this poem is definitely its structure, something many modern poets like to play with (most notably, E.E. Cummings). The first two words of the poem announce that the couple is middle aged, like the title suggests (the “40” in 40-love refers to age). In another context, 40-Love is also a term in tennis that is called when a player is one point away from victory whereas the other opponent’s score remains as zilch. So, cleverly, the structure is divided so that when the poem is read, our eyes leap back and forth across the center like a ball hit across a net over and over again. With this in mind, the poem becomes a tennis match between a couple, and the blank space in the middle is their net. The shortness of the poem is a simplicity asset, taking us to the poem’s message quicker (like a quick tennis game). “The net will still be between them” is our best lead pertaining to their relationship. They may not be so happily in love after all. The net is more than just an object in their game, but a metaphor for a division in their daily lives – a barrier that blocks communication. I also liked how the two “be’s” were opposite each other in the structure of the poem. It is almost as if the poet was drawing a connection between the two behind the net, hinting that although they are inevitably linked and similar, they are separate. Robert McGough is actually known for being a performance poet, as he often likes to perform his poems. In fact, when I listened to Robert McGough reading 40-Love, the recital was recorded with sounds of birds chirping, and each word of the poem accompanied by a ping of the tennis ball. This is what makes the poem most special – it is written not only for reading, but also experiencing. The poem is designed to trigger you imagination, and that is why I like it.