Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, HARD LOVE ROCK, by AUDRE LORDE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

HARD LOVE ROCK, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Hard Love Rock," written by Audre Lorde in 1968, is a poignant and disquieting exploration of love, pain, and the indelible marks they leave on the human heart. In this emotive poem, Lorde describes the jarring sounds of a "heart screeching like a subway train," evoking the suffocating experience of an emotional ordeal. The heart's noise serves as both a painful reminder of its humanity and a warning about the destructive force of love gone awry.

From the outset, the poem captures the reader's attention with its audial imagery, likening the sound of the heart to a "subway train." The comparison is not only jolting but deeply urban and visceral. The use of "subway train" immediately immerses the reader into a world that is gritty and frenetic, reflecting the emotional turmoil of the speaker. It also emphasizes how easily love can derail, hurtling out of control in dark, subterranean spaces of the heart.

The phrase "loudly enough to remind me it was still human" reveals the heart's vulnerability in the face of overwhelming emotional strain. This speaks to the rawness of the human condition-the ability to feel, hurt, and acknowledge one's fragility. Furthermore, the word "still" implies an existential weariness, as if the heart has fought for its humanity amidst various challenges.

The speaker then characterizes the object of affection as "a ghost I had / better left in the cradle," suggesting the haunting nature of love that refuses to die or mature. This also invokes the idea of childhood or naivety, as if the love was born in a state of innocence and then failed to evolve, becoming instead a specter of pain. The implication is that some relationships are doomed from the start and are better left unrealized.

In examining the direction of the relationship, the speaker states "our tracks ran around / instead of straight out past the sewers." Here, the imagery of tracks and sewers expands on the subway metaphor, evoking a love that's stagnant, circular, and perhaps even decaying. It underscores the idea that love must have progression, a forward momentum, or else it risks plunging both parties into an emotional wasteland.

The poem concludes with images of lost potential, captured by the "wooden cross / splintered and shapeless / after the slaughter." This sacrificial metaphor emphasizes the extent of the emotional toll, likening the failed love to a form of spiritual devastation. The language of "slaughter" further amplifies the feeling of destructive love, leaving "only pain" in its aftermath.

"Hard Love Rock" is thus a compelling dive into the complexities of love, and its potential to both humanize and devastate. Audre Lorde masterfully uses the urban landscape as a metaphorical space to explore these emotional nuances, delivering a poem that is as haunting as it is relatable. Through its visceral imagery and raw emotion, the poem serves as a stark reminder of the fragility and vulnerability that accompany human love.

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