What is perfect love

Poem 9 from J.V. Cunningham’s collection To What Strangers, What Welcome. I quote from the fantastically edited The Poems of J. V. Cunningham, with a great introduction and great notes, all done by Timothy Steele. Read this. Read this.


Innocent to innocent,
One asked, What is perfect love?
Not knowing it is not love,
Which is imperfect–some kind
Of love or other, some kind
Of interchange with wanting,
There when all else is wanting,
Something by which we make do.

So impaired, uninnocent,
If I love you–as I do–
To the very perfection
Of perfect imperfection,
It’s that I care more for you
Than for my feeling for you.

6 thoughts on “What is perfect love

  1. Fucking marvellous, the poem.

    re Not being in love with love: how do we even know that’s possible? Is there really any good reason to believe that love is more than a wanting which we leaven with caring because we recognise that the wanted is also, as much as us, a person? (some kind/Of interchange with wanting)
    And is there any real argument to be made for either a yes or a no answer to that question?

  2. No, I think you’re right that this is an intractable question. The poet’s stance here is rhetorical.

    and fucking marvelous describes the poem well. One of the great underrated masters in American literature.

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