The sweet, fluttering feeling of falling in love and the irrational madness that comes with heartbreak are two polar opposites that many experience throughout their lives. Few artists are capable of capturing such emotional intensity as simply and genuinely as poet and artist Lang Leav does in her newest book. Leav’s third book, Memories, is a collection of handpicked poems from her previous books — Love & Misadventure and Lullabies — along with 35 new poems. In every line, Leav skillfully weaves words together to create simple, beautifully stitched poetry and prose filled with heartbreak, longing and hope.
Throughout Memories, Leav’s writing describes the initial rush of falling in love and the feeling of being consumed in it. “When love finds you, it doesn’t come with crashing waves or thunderbolts,” she writes. “It appears as a song on the radio or a particular blue in the sky. It dawns on you slowly, like a warm winter sunrise — where the promise of summer shines out from within.” Her use of metaphor sets a dreamy, tender tone allowing the reader to feel the sentiments expressed through her words. The pages are filled with color illustrations that reflect themes in the book, drawn by Leav herself, featuring drawings such as a girl sitting cross-legged with a book and carnations in different colors.
In addition, her prose on the downfall of lost love is devastating, providing a stark contrast to her musings on the joy of it. “There are things I miss that I shouldn’t, and things I don’t that I should. Sometimes we want what we couldn’t. Sometimes we love what we could,” she writes. Leav’s use of simple words in this theoretical arrangement gives the reader time to slowly think about and reflect on the sentence. She explains in that sentence that the timing of love and longing are not right, that sometimes we love things that we can’t have and have no control over it. In “The Loneliest Place,” Leav dismally describes unrequited love as one of the most depressing feelings. “There is poverty in giving too much of your heart. When your desire for another is not returned in equal measure — nothing in the world can compensate for the shortfall. Sometimes the loneliest place is to be in love.”
In “Dark Room,” the romantic poet discusses the significance of words in a relationship. “Tell someone about me,” she writes. “I don’t want our story to end here, and your words may be the only thing that saves us.” Though she is no longer in the relationship, she does not want it to be forgotten. She believes that words can be a catalyst in preserving memories. The poem’s tone starts off pleading, but later transitions to optimistic. “Don’t let me fade away like a Polaroid. Time can be cruel in that way,” she writes. “But you and I are still breathing in this imperfect world. What could be an even greater miracle than that?” Despite the fact that she can never relive the love she once had or preserve her relationship, Leav concludes that the gift of life is an even bigger marvel in the broader scope of things.
Leav’s writing style may not be for everyone. Some might think that it’s too short, whiny or repetitive. However, Leav’s writing style is focused on simplicity with a deeper meaning. The poems are not long but are to be read slowly and intentionally. Anybody could finish Memories in the span of an hour, but it takes careful reading to feel the sentiment behind every word. Leav does not need complex and verbose prose to perfectly convey the feeling of love and loss; she possesses a talent for portraying heartbreak in brief, whimsical sentences.
Memories is a book that will comfort readers with its words, as Leav understands the exact feelings in times of heartbreak. She is an incredible wordsmith who turns her pain, passion and sorrow into a stunning work of art. As Leav writes, “It was words that I fell for. In the end, it was words that broke my heart.”
Originally published in Daily Trojan.