by Theophilus Kwek
'Every poem is a love poem.' —Helen Mort
The truth comes to us late one afternoon:
a poem must love the thing it lives within.
The more we use the word, the more it means—
a poem must hold the thing, but tenderly,
not afraid, not holding off, and not too soon—
this truth comes to us late one afternoon
as we’re sipping tea, and talking about poems,
or about love, the language they’re written in.
The more we use that word, the more it seems
(no matter if we can know what we mean)
because the thing within is far more than
any truth that might come on an afternoon
and if a poem must live within that thing
then it must love the whims and edges of the thing,
beyond even what those words could mean.
Out there are all the things we want to mean
but do not say because we cannot know
what truths might come to us one afternoon
when talking about tea, or sipping love,
or writing poems even, using words
that mean more than all the things they mean.
So take this word that holds itself like a tune.
It’s more than what will be and what has been.
The truth comes to us late one afternoon.
The more we use the word the more it means.
Born in Singapore, Theophilus Kwek has published four volumes of poetry—most recently The First Five Storms
, which won the New Poets' Prize in 2016. He also won Martin Starkie Prize
in 2014, the Jane Martin Prize in 2015, and was co-winner of the Second Berfrois Poetry Prize
. He has served as President of the Oxford University Poetry Society, and is currently Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry
, Poetry Reader at The London Magazine
, as well as Chief Executive Assistant at Asymptote
. He is pursuing a Master's in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at Oxford University.