It is common for a child to place importance towards a toy or a blanket or some other inanimate object. It is one of the first signs that a person is forming attachments and developing relationships with objects and people beyond themselves. A new poetry anthology, Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems About Inanimate Objects, collects the best objectophilia love poems from poets all across the country and shows the type of objects these writers feel attached to. With poems ranging from subjects like butter dishes to garden gnomes to the Empire State Building, the anthology examines how these poets are able to show a sense of life and romance towards objects and places that one might not normally associate with such feelings.
For an open call anthology such as this, it is interesting to look at the breakdown of sections and subjects submitted. The sections of the collection range from various household objects like furniture, kitchenware, clothing, etc., to more grand objects such as nature and cities. The anthology is great for showing a variety of subjects, as there are very few instances of multiple poems about the same subject, allowing the reader to see a more eclectic spread of poetry.
What is also quite interesting is how each section of the anthology carries similar tones in how the poets addressed their objects. The section “Food” has many poems about various fruits and vegetables, and some, such as “Peach” by Judy Swann and “Italian Passion, Darling Tomatoes” by Cathy Bryant, focus more on the touch and taste to an almost erotic degree. The section “Drugs and Drinks” leans for more controlling and dependent kind of relationships. As Ann Kestner bluntly states at the start of her poem “Coffee Mate,” “Coffee//is the longest//committed relationship//I have ever had,” which hints at the mindset of the poet, but also creates a mood that the reader might empathize with easily.
When given a subject like objectophilia, it would be easy to lean towards phallic or more blatantly sexual objects for one’s subject matter. There are some pieces that play with that, such as Amy MacLennan’s “A Large Jar of Kosher Dills Left on My Front Porch,” but the poets in this anthology don’t think of love or inanimate objects in quite as sexual terms. For a lot of these poets, they choose to recount a love that’s warm and comforting. “Ode to Amanda’s Red Couch” by Melanie Bikowski details how comfortable she felt on a couch belonging to someone else, with lines like “molding me into a temper-pedic bliss” exposing feelings of contentment that one might not think when looking at a couch.
When the subjects move to grander subjects like nature, the poems also become a lot more abstract, but still remain effective in detailing the kinds of relationships that the poet has with the object. Jacquelyn Bengfort manages to tell a destructive, but innocent, love story in two lines with her piece “Fire Triangle,” while Bethanie Humphreys’ “Earthbound Hymn” closes the anthology by bringing dozens of interrelated objects to paint a picture of the Earth as an object. It is a surreal piece that ties together the various styles of poems featured in the anthology, but also creates a new object to love and adore.
Unrequited is a unique and intriguing collection of poetry that takes what could be a subject derided with lowbrow humor or sexual references and creates something passionate and comforting. It assembles a series of poets with unique points of view and an eye for drawing the romantic out of objects one might not consider romantic. The assembled poems cover a wide range of relationships, and every reader is sure to find a piece they relate to, whether it be a poem about a computer, a candelabra, or even tampons. Unrequited is an anthology for the sentimental and the romantic, but with a unique spin sure to become something the reader will also fall in love with.
Alex Carrigan graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 with a degree in print/online journalism and a minor in world cinema. He is currently a managing editorial and PR intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, as well as Staff Film Reviewer for Quail Bell Magazine. He has written articles for The Commonwealth Times and has had reviews featured in Luna Luna Magazine. He is also a former deputy editor-in-chief for VCU’s Poictesme Literary Journal. He has had fiction, poetry, and nonfiction work published in Poictesme, Amendment Literary Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, Rebels: Comic Anthology at VCU, Realms YA Literary Magazine, and Life in 10 Minutes. He currently resides in Charlottesville, VA.