Probably more than any other poems, three by Paul Zimmer (American, b. 1934) made me want to write a collection of Songs for Married Lovers. I probably first encountered Zimmer’s poetry when I was an undergraduate English major, and I certainly taught many of his wonderful poems in my own literature classes at McNeese. Zimmer has received many significant awards and honors for his poetry, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for Literature, and he won the National Poetry Series award in 1998 for his collection The Great Bird of Love.
I remember how tears sprang into my eyes the first time that I read “The Weathers of Love.” This deeply moving poem is written in four sections, two of which I asked for permission to set to music. I’m always thrilled by the ending of the first section, in which the couple have been walking outside in windy autumn weather, and the blue sky suddenly appears at the end of the day:
Tiny flowers unwrap in sunlight,
Moss begins to passion.
So we have done it again,
Walked all day to love.
The concluding section of the poem asks
What to say to our children
Of our long time in the weathers of love?
and offers several answers, the most moving of which, I think, are the last lines:
That to see you waving to me
From a hazy distance is as precious as hold your in my arms.
That sometimes on a rainy day
Just knowing you are in the next room saves my life.
The third Zimmer poem, “An Enzyme Poem for Suzanne,” was always a huge crowd-pleaser when Paul Zimmer read it at MFA poetry readings. This poem is scored for baritone and harp, with the addition of a bongo bell at the end, where the tempo changes to a mambo. The poet tells his wife (Suzanne) that though he can might go along for weeks ignoring her (“like my heartbeat”), sometimes she can suddenly walk through a door (the mambo tempo begins at this point) and make him want to make up for lost time:
This is to tell you that you are my enzymes, my yeast,
All the things that make my cork go pop.