Celebrating Valentine's Day

The following is from the Feb. 11, 2007, edition of The Dallas Morning News.

Love seems to bring out
our verse side

By Tom Mayo

With Valentine's Day fast upon us, our thoughts naturally turn to love and marriage. So there may be no more obvious book of poems for this month than the posthumously published Poems of Love and Marriage by John Ciardi (University of Arkansas, $16).

Apart from that title, there is nothing obvious about the love poems Mr. Ciardi wrote to his wife, Judith. The verses are sometimes sweet (but never maudlin), always fresh, and often surprising, as the Columbia professor and former director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference moves us across the arc of their decades-long love affair.

Even more of a surprise was this past year's Acts of Love: Ancient Greek Poetry from Aphrodite's Garden (Modern Library, $13.95), selected and translated by George Economou. These translations are fearlessly modern, thoroughly grounded (as improbable as this sounds) in American idiom, and (as Billy Collins has written) "unabashed." If you like your Greeks straight, no chaser, you will cheer Mr. Economou's decision to rescue the ancients from euphemism and delicacy. This is Eros dressed in full metal jacket, aiming not only for the heart but the nether regions, as well.

Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky introduces his collection, The Handbook of Heartbreak (Rob Weisback Books, out of print but widely available on the Internet) with this puzzle: "Why do works of art about bad things such as loss and deprivation make us feel good?" It is the appeal of the blues, of every torch song ever written, and of the poems in this little anthology of 101 poems. The number was chosen by Mr. Pinsky because it sounded lonely to him. The poets represented include Thomas Wyatt, Ben Jonson, Sherman Alexie and Mark Doty, not to mention Yeats, Bishop, Dickinson, Frost, Milton, Plath, Merrill, Blake, Heaney. It's a completely satisfying collection.

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Tom Mayo teaches "Law, Literature & Medicine" at SMU's Dedman School of Law.

The following is from the Feb. 10, 2007, edition of

The modern sound of romance

By Blanca Torres

VALENTINE'S DAY will be easier on Jeremy Jones' wallet this year. He's "off the hook" since he bought his wife, Jaime, an expensive watch for Christmas.

That means he's only responsible for dinner, champagne, flowers and a card. That is unlike other years when he was more extravagant, such as the time he sent her flowers every day for a week leading up to Valentine's Day.

"She works in an office," said Jones, who is 27 and lives in Concord. "Everybody got to see it."

Some people say Valentine's Day has become just another reason to spend money. They may be right.

Americans are expected to spend nearly $17 billion on Valentine's Day this year to romance their sweethearts, a 23 percent increase compared with $13.7 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation.But, does that mean there is more love in the air than years past? No, experts said.

Consumers are just more willing to spend. The reasons vary from having more disposable income to social pressure to prove how much someone cares via gifts and fancy dinners.

The National Retail Federation estimates that about 63 percent of consumers celebrate Valentine's Day with the average person spending $119.67. The occasion ranks third in consumer spending after winter holiday shopping and back-to-school shopping.

"The trend has more to do with disposable incomes and more to do with the effectiveness of retailers to persuade people to buy more," said Daniel Howard, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business in Dallas. "It's not because people care more about their loved ones this year than last year."

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