The Essence is Love . . .

Pearl Buck receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Olaf of Sweden,  10 December, 1938

Pearl Buck receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Olaf of Sweden, December 10, 1938

“One merit of poetry few persons will deny: It says more and in fewer words than prose.” Voltaire

So often I have the idea for a story that ends up in a poem instead. Poetry is such an efficient medium and economically captures the essence of what I want to say, which is always – no matter what the story  – an expression of love. It was interesting to me to discover that one of the novelists I admire most, Pearl Buck, would agree.

Born on June 28, 1892 in the United States in Virginia, Pearl Buck was the daughter of missionaries. She grew up in China and spoke Chinese before she spoke English. She was a prolific writer. Of her novels, The Good Earth is probably the best known. To my knowledge, there is only one small book of her poems. It was published in 1974, a year after her death, and is now out of print.

2357773_s1_i1The book is titled Words of Love. It is gracefully illustrated with Asian art by Jeanyee Wong and was published by the John Day Company, the publishing firm founded by Ms. Buck’s second husband.

I was fortunate to find a copy Words of Love, in a used bookstore some years ago. In brief, eloquent, deft strokes, the poems do indeed express the consistent theme of Ms. Buck’s novels, love.

Two years ago in an interview with me British poet, Myra Schneider, said this about Pearl Buck’s poem, Essence:

Myra Schneider

Myra Schneider

” This spiritual poem is an expression of what Pearl Buck feels is at the heart of living and writing – love. Without it life would have no meaning, nothing to offset the negativity, dangers and fears of living. What I understand too is that in all else she has written, all she has given body and soul to, love is the essence. I’m glad she used the word essence because for me the poetry that really matters – both what I read and what I write – is spiritual poetry, poetry which searches below the surface for meanings . This is not say that I write or look for poetry which is very solemn or far removed from the everyday or humorless – rather that I want to explore what lies beneath the ordinary, what raises it, makes it not ordinary.”


I give you the books I’ve made,

Body and soul, bled and flayed.

Yet the essence they contain

In one poem is made plain,

In one poem is made clear:

On this earth, through far or near,

Without love there’s only fear.

– Pearl Buck

* * * * * * *

Poets Writing Across Borders

“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
It is right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?”

– Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

THE STRANGEST OF THEATRES is a collection of essays by contemporary American poets about their forays into the world beyond U.S. borders. The essays reflect on home, identity and alienation. The poets include Naomi Shihab Nye, Nick Flynn, Philip Levine, and W.S. Merwin. The collection closes with a panel discussion of fourteen writers. It also  provides information on traveling, living and writing abroad including fellowships and grants, residencies, translating, and teaching and volunteer opportunities.

The Strangest of Theatres is published by the premier American poetry publisher, The Poetry Foundation, and McSweeney Press. Download HERE.

. . . and thus we begin another week . . .

© 2013, essay , Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, Licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo and illustration ~ Pearl Buck’s photo is in the public domain and it is likely the artwork for the book cover is as well. Myra Schneider’s portrait is copyrighted and used here with permission.


19 thoughts on “The Essence is Love . . .

  1. Your words touch my heart every time, my friend. You express the feelings of life with so much eloquence and yet your words are down to earth, for us all, not for some secret poet-critic lurking, reading over your shoulder. Be well, I think of you often.


  2. I just got caught up on your past week’s writing, so I am commenting on the whole, not just this post. What I appreciate most about your poetry is the way you are able to communicate the undercurrents of living with a brevity of words. I think I hear life better if I don’t have to swim my way through so many words that my mind ends up drowning. I am so thankful to have found your very talented mind.


    1. Thank you for your well-considered comment, Pat. I think poems and photography both have the ability to illustrate the human condition in “pictures” that are powerful for their brevity. It doesn’t surprise me that as a photographer, you also relate to poetry. Many of your photographs ARE poems. Be as well as you can, Pat, and blog on …


  3. I really enjoyed reading “Essence” and I thought that Ms. Schneider’s comments were spot on. I understand what she means about searching below the surface. Still waters run deep and all that. 🙂 Hope you are “fine as frog-hairs” by now and feeling much better!


    1. Yes! I thought Myra did well by the poem and poetry. Nice to see you on WordPress, Corina. I take it this means you have posted a poem or two. Hooray! Will check soon … and, as always, thanks for high-minded material you share on Facebook. 🙂


  4. Jamie,nI am just remembering. I could leave a comment here yesterday. Duh, Liz but I don not think I could get the “Leave a comment” link to work yesterday upon the “day before.” And today “monday AM” I can not leave a comment (make link work). The poem today (Mon) was so very lovely.


Thank you!

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