Last year I taught Christina Rossetti’s ‘A Birthday’ to my IGCSE English class and was inspired to write my own spin on it.
Writing about love is, I think, to engage with a paradox. What makes the feeling of falling in love so powerful is its freshness; the way that it feels as if it’s happening for the first time: not just for you but for anybody, ever. Art often fails to recognise this is, I feel, in the sense that the ‘novel’ feeling being presented by the artist is seldom novel for the reader. Love has to be felt to be believed and to try and understand it through the eyes of another is as futile and alienating as trying to feel high by watching someone else’s trip.
For me, Rossetti manages to sidestep this cliche in ‘A Birthday’ by draping her imagery not around her beloved (look! He’s really so wonderful you know!) but around the feeling. In that final couplet she tells us everything we need to know about how it feels to fall in love: bring out the parade, the time has arrived and it’s everything they said it would be. Here we are not celebrating a lover but the feeling of love itself.
With the above in mind, I won’t babble about my own experience of being in love and will instead just say that I had lots of fun updating Rossetti’s regal and romantic imagery to something a little bit more modern.
In case there was any risk of you becoming confused, it’s Rossetti’s I’ve included below first, then my own version ;). If you’re stuck for creative inspiration then I’d really recommend this method of getting your ideas going by writing a response to a poem that already exists!
A Birthday – Christina Rossetti
Pete and heartbeats – Emily Victoria
My heart is like a finish line,
The heady rush, relief at last.
My heart is like a skimming stone,
Out to the lake I’m gladly cast.
My heart is midweek visitors,
Too much wine and no alarm clock dread,
My heart is crisp weekend pillows,
The first snow drop, the road ahead.
My heart, it seems to beat much more,
Since it became a metaphor.