John Brehm's "Of Love and Life Insurance: An Argument"

Updated on August 24, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

John Brehm



John Brehm's "Of Love and Life Insurance: An Argument" consists of a single free verse paragraph (versagraph), which content-wise sections itself into six movements.

The verse offers a fascinating look at the differences between the pragmatic, real world desires of one individual, and that of a head-in-the-clouds poet.

The verse loses its balance when the speaker rambles off into his romanic view of poetry, leaving readers to wonder what happened to that relationship. Or even what the girlfriend's response was to his musings on poetry.

Even though it is likely the two split soon after that conversation, the verse could benefit by making that possibility clearer.

This loss of balance also results in the verse failing to live up to its title: there is no true argument. There are only two different statements about the nature and practicality of a poet's life.

Movement 1: "'I need to accept you as you are,' she said"

The girlfriend says she needs to accept the speaker as he is, which indicates that she does not want to change him, but then she adds that he needs to "become" the type of individual she can accept.

In other words, she does not want to change him, but she wants him to change.

The speaker comments cleverly on the idea of "becoming": "I was / becoming bewildered, but I don't / think that's what she meant."

While the girlfriend needs to accept him as he is, she finds she cannot do so, because of he has no life insurance policy.

Movement 2: "But we've only known each other / three months"

The poet/speaker then replies that they have known each other for only three months and poses the question, "Aren't we jumping ahead?"

Then the girlfriend gets specific: she imagines them married with a child, and she is so dissatisfied with the marriage that she has to leave him, move back to her hometown with their child and live with her mother.

Furthermore, she does not want to have take her child to a public clinic, nor does she want to keep nagging him about all these practical aspects of life.

The girlfriend is simply looking out for herself, telling him what she does not want for herself and her child. She is being very pragmatic—perhaps premature—but practical.

Movement 3: "And then my heart fell from the sky"

The poet/speaker then reports that his feelings were blasted like a bird that had been shot. The romance has been obliterated by the woman's practicality.

The speaker is wounded and asks her if that is now she imagines their life together.

The speaker is shocked that this woman with whom he has had a three-month relationship would project such a bitter future for herself if they married.

Movement 4: "I guess being an unsuccessful poet"

At this point, the conversation has ended; only the poet/speaker is musing. He postulates: "I guess being an unsuccessful poet / isn't as attractive as it used to be."

Again, the speaker's retort is somewhat humorous. While the romantic notion of the starving artist is always afloat, and some women and men will always be attracted to that romantic fantasy, other more practical individuals will not be so easily swayed.

Movement 5: "But wheres the risky spirit"

The speaker continues to engage his own romantic fantasies about the nature of the starving poet and his world of poetry.

This poet/speaker believes the beginning of a romance requires the partners to accept risk as they jump into the "vast / unknown of love."

Because in that vastness "anything / and everything" is likely to happen. The speaker wonders where those romantic views have gone.

The speaker wonders what happened to the notion that poems are "sustaining luxuries and dangers."

The speaker wonders what happened to the wish to make one's life a poem.

Unlike the girlfriend, this speaker is so in love with poetry that he believes that it

possesses the power to open doors into worlds unimagined and "through which even a child might walk."

Movement 6: "Words have such power, I wanted to tell her"

The speaker wants to tell his girlfriend how important poetry is, how important the mystery of the unknown is to him, with the possibility that someone will benefit from poetry's words.

The speaker concludes with the term "beneficiary" to resonate with the earlier life insurance request.

However, it is likely that the girlfriend would not be so inclined toward that great unknown, she would still want him to show her the money.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image

      Linda Sue Grimes 6 months ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Brehm is a contemporary poet. His work is somewhat shallow, as are so many moderns. I would not recommend delving deeply into his scribblings.

      I commented on this piece primarily to demonstrate the common weaknesses in contemporary poetry: it is often inconsistent, lacking balance and depth. The surface that the contemporary mods skim is often devoid of beauty, truth, or interest in light and love. But still some entertainment might be had from giving it a perusal.

      Thanks for your interest, Louise. Always like hearing your response to my offerings.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I shall have to look for John Brehm, I've never head of him before now.