Jackie Kay's 'Late Love': Poem Analysis

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Topics: Love, Poetry, Romance, Pilcrow
Module: Understanding Poetry
Assignment 1: Analysis of a poem
Late Love

How they strut about, people in love, how tall they grow, pleased with themselves, their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don’t remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they’ve become – secret, above the order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.

How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless; how clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge up and down streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley, a touch in a changing-room, if lucky, a lovely wait for the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush

already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.

‘Late love’ is obviously about being in love as well as not being in love. The main theme of Jackie Kay’s poem is exactly this, the contract between these two types of people and how this reflects upon them. The poem divides these two emotional states into almost equal groups. The first two paragraphs consist of eight lines which describe the appearance and feelings of people in love. The last two paragraphs consist of nine lines which describe the equivalent of people not being in love. The poem begins by describing the appearance of people stricken by love, “how tall they grow… their skin shining”; a metaphorical way of saying that love brings out the best in people. In the second paragraph the poet illustrates the difference in these people’s expressions and priorities from the moment their feelings have changed, “How filmic they are just for this time”, as if taken out from a romance movie, and “how important they’ve become”; their love has changed their sense of how significant they feel now that they have a person to share all their secrets and experiences with. The line “Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign” perhaps means that this sound now

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