Read the full analysis of the poem Love’s Dog by Jane Hadfield below. The speaker is talking about her love-hate relationship with love, and she is using extensive comparisons, demonstrating love’s contradictions and complexities via direct and simple language.
What I love about love is its diagnosis
What I hate about love is its prognosis
What I hate about love is its me me me
What I love about love is its Eat-me/Drink-me
(Full poem unable to be reproduced due to copyright restrictions)
- Diagnosis – the identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms
- Prognosis – a forecast of the likely outcome of an illness or situation
- Petting zoo – a zoo full of cute animals, that visitors can pet and cuddle
- Serum – an amber-coloured, protein-rich liquid which separates out when blood coagulates
- Potion – a liquid with healing, magical, or poisonous properties
- Doubloons – Spanish gold coins
- Loathe – feel intense dislike or disgust for
STORY + SUMMARY
What I love about love, is its diagnosis – the part where you idealise it and expect it to be great – and what I hate about is its prognosis – the likely reality of it, the way it might fade or end with time.
What I hate about love is that it’s all about me, but what I love about it is it’s ‘eat me/ drink me’ nature (this may be a reference to the all-consumptive nature of love, where it eclipses all other needs, and also an allusion to Alice in Wonderland, where the protagonist Alice eats and drinks substances which make her grow and shrink in size).
What I love about love is that it’s like being an animal in a petting zoo, with you being the zookeeper.
What I love about love is its truth serum – the way that it encourages honesty – and what I hate about it is its shrinking potion – the way that it narrows your world down.
What I love about love is its doubloons – its golden richness – and its bird-bones.
What I hate about love is its boil-wash – the intense bubbling passions when it becomes too hot – but I love its spin-cycle – the giddy, dizzy feeling of love where it feels like you’re being whirled around.
I really loathe love’s burnt toast and bone meal, but I also hate its bent cigarette.
What I love about love is its pirate-like qualities, but I really hate it when it’s like a sick parrot.
SPEAKER + VOICE
The speaker expresses her love-hate relationship with love in an insightful tone. At first, it may seem that she’s nonsensically reeling off a series of images and phenomena that vaguely connect to the idea of love, but delving deeper into the poem we realise that she is using extensive comparisons, demonstrating love’s contradictions and complexities via direct and simple language.
The poem predominantly uses first-person singular pronouns, such as “me” and “I”, with the exception of a single mention of the second-person pronoun “you” in the second line of the third stanza. The dash preceding the pronoun further draws attention to it, suggesting that there is an intended specific addressee of the poem, who is the speaker’s lover.
Metaphors – Hadfield extensively employs this stylistic device – as seen in the first line where instead of love being an abstract emotion, it is turned into a series of metaphors. For instance, the notion of loving love’s diagnosis, depicts it as a tangible, anatomical phenomenon that can be tested for. Hadfield implies therefore that love is a physical manifestation of who we are on a fundamental level.
Imagery – “What I love about love is its pirate” – this phrase evokes a visual image within the reader’s mind, suggesting something roguish and daring about love, as well as its ability to break rules and perhaps steal or plunder a person’s soul. Hadfield suggests that love has hijacked her, just as pirates do to ships at sea.
Zoomorphism – The title “Love’s Dog” personifies love as a loyal, domestic creature. The speaker tries to convey the idea that her loyalty towards love can be equated to that of a dog’s loyalty to its humans. However, dogs can also be ferocious and attack if threatened – thus, from the title of the poem, Hadfield introduces tension between the conflicting characteristics of love.
Zoomorphism can also be seen in the last line where Hadfield expresses her dislike for “love’s sick parrot” right after talking about her love for love’s characteristics as a pirate. She conveys the idea that love can be squawking and repetitive as if it is an annoying companion at times.
Emotive language – The speaker expresses herself passionately as depicted through her use of strong emphatic verbs such as “love” instead of “like”, and “hate” and “loathe” instead of “dislike”. She seems to ultimately love her partner, as she envisions him as a ‘zookeeper’ in a ‘petting zoo’, and equates their love with ‘dubloons’ – high value gold coins. The ‘spin-cycle’ of a washing machine suggests the dizzying feeling that his love provides, and the ‘truth serum’ that elicits honesty and openness. Yet, there are negative repercussions to this intensity too – as evidenced by the counterpointed imagery in the poem: ‘boil-wash’, ‘sick parrot’, ‘shrinking potion’, ‘me me me’.
STRUCTURE + FORM
This poem is penned in the first person singular, as the speaker expresses her personal perception and experiences of love.
It has a regular structure, being written in couplets of two lines each – traditionally couplets signify love and harmony in poetry, yet there is a complex tension throughout this poem between harmony and disharmony, as it balances the positive and negative emotions of love.
Some lines use full rhyme – ‘zoo/you’ – to signify a more complete harmony between the speaker and addressee, whereas others use assonance (half-rhyme) – ‘serum/potion’
Parallelism – The poet starts all the lines in this poem in an identical or strikingly similar manner. She starts each line with “What I” followed in nearly all instances by either the word ‘love’ or ‘hate.’ This enhances the message being passed by the poet through the alternating emphasis on each line.
Jen Hadfield was born in 1978 in Cheshire, England to a Canadian mother and a British father. She earned a BA in English Literature and Language from the University of Edinburgh and was the TS Eliot Prize’s youngest winner. Hadfield is also a painter, and her paintings are often inspired by her poetry; they focus on the natural world, as well as kinship, colloquial dialects, and experimentation with language.
The late twentieth century saw the emergence of the literary trend known as postmodernism. Traditional and conventional methods of thinking are frequently questioned and subverted in postmodern literature. Additionally, postmodern writing is frequently pessimistic and negative, seeking to depict the realities of life rather than the idealistic view often promoted by earlier eras. The speaker makes unorthodox and surprising parallels in the poem in a postmodern style, and her critical assessment of love is consistent with the patient, and often jaded viewpoint of postmodern characters.
Feminism from the 1990s onward is referred to as the ‘Third Wave’ of the feminist movement. The goals of the feminist movement evolved over time; after women were granted the right to vote, feminists shifted their focus to labor rights and liberation from gender stereotypes. The Third Wave wanted to see more and more women in leadership roles while also calling attention to the myriad stigmas and preconceptions that prevent women from being treated with respect and being given positions of authority. The focus also shifted towards sex positivity, reproductive rights, and sexual liberation – whilst campaigning against sexual violence and harassment. In order to be sexually liberated, a woman must be permitted to have her own sexuality, recognise the ways in which her sexual orientation and gender identity have been shaped by society, and be free to pursue her own interests. In ‘Love’s Dog,’ Hadfield expresses her complex, personal and individualistic views on love, asserting her independence by fully embracing everything that love means to her – when viewed from a feminist perspective, we could see this as a form of sexual liberation as it is open and candid. Certain images, such as ‘Eat me/Drink-me’ or ‘bent cigarette’ could be viewed as sexual allusions.
Relationships that maintain love endure. Throughout this poem, Hadfield passionately expressess either her love or hate for ‘love’. In this sense, it can be viewed as a debate between the positives and negatives of love – with love ultimately being seen as the victor.
The feeling of intense love produces equal amounts of positive and negative experiences. Contrary to what most people think – that love is a bed of roses – it actually isn’t all of the time. Just as everything else has its own highs and lows, so does love – and it has personal qualities which are unique to each relationship. Thus, the poet truthfully expresses her conflicted relationship with love.
|TASK: Pick two of the themes below, make a mind map and add four separate quotations from the story that relates to it. Make short notes of analysis, explaining how and why each one relates to your theme. What, in your opinion, is the author’s final message or statement about each theme that you chose?
- Emotions vs Logic
- Identify and explain the use of metaphors in this poem.
- In what ways do you think Hadfield’s use of antithesis helps her treat both love and hate as dual primary themes?
- ‘The speaker is bittersweet about love.’ To what extent do you agree? Examine this view using evidence from the poem.
- Hadfield’s speaker still holds on to her relationship despite the love-hate tension in the relationship. Discuss the themes of perseverance and tolerance in relation to the poem.