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Tangled Up In Green: Literary Lovers and Their Temperaments

“Jealousy is a useless emotion”

Kirsten Norrie MacGillivray, poet and musician


But is it?

Has jealousy not inspired great tortured literature, a cult of memorable love songs, riotous movements and aesthetic masterpieces?  Is it not as useful as a knife – a weapon that has cut through crimes of passion bleeding through the sheets of history in style?  Can romantic jealousy be sexy? Why is it when it comes to love we are like lonely only children reared on echoes, fluent in speech but faulty in the company of crowds? Why must we act like one that has never learnt to share, why must we be so territorial about the occupation of a lover’s heart? Why do we want to be told that we are the only ones when there are in principle, so many?

The universe is a swarming hub crammed with many people that we will undoubtedly find attractive. During my experimentations with polyamorous tendencies my adrenaline accelerated, but what is it about love and loyalty that happily erases such a promiscuous rush? Is it something to do with the holiness, and the mysticism and the closeness felt in duet instead of chorus, a synergy of a beautiful binary on either side of a slanting wall – the trust shared within this intimacy, the surrender, the hunger when you miss them the same way a fruit misses its stone when it’s cut out to be devoured?

The criticality of gratification to one another is supreme. Love is a series of attachments and detachments, and at such heights people topple, to rely on someone else to pull your parachute mid-flight, and ah what carnage! But we have relied on this lover for instant fixes, for intimacy and for support and what if they were to roam elsewhere, get their heart tangled in stronger, greener vines, meet someone more beautiful, more successful (though we are the one’s who usually assign these attributes to the rival at the point of delusion, representing something unrealized in ourself). Well, it would sting like sleet against an open wound. It is bad enough when small departures procure red lights and road works to delay the comfort of filth and kisses, let alone the loss of a loved one to another for good. From one side of the duo we can never forcibly prevent this from happening, fate is out-with our control, therefore romantic jealousy rears its sexy head and comes in handy, with a fragrance as seductive as the narcissus flower.

Writers are undoubtedly a jealous type, especially poets, and they seem to need jealousy not just as a functional reaction to certain situations but as a cataclysmic charge in their writing.  Narcissists break hearts on purpose. So suddenly you are spurred to write; you are furious, and vulnerable and oh so fragile, your keyboard creaks under the frenzy but still you type with teenage angst and adult wisdom combined, the poems swell, inevitable doom is inevitable, but your words seduce and seem to induce forgiveness and understanding in your lover, they suddenly understand how sincere and passionate your love is for them and they envelope it, send it back gift wrapped with a ‘I could never live without you either’ and all is right with the world and nothing else matters because jealousy is sexual and powerful, it preserves social bonds, invokes the bloody truth.

Jealousy motivates us to stand guard and protect our relationship from perceived threat, it encourages us to maintain our partner’s interest and conjures a valuable signal towards our sense of self. So we should absorb its intensity, use it the way the writers use it to blood-let the emotion until it is pale for inspiration. We should dig; discuss, rectify, celebrate and then channel it because in the end jealousy can’t be helped, as much as a crying baby can help its drowning mother seconds before her moment of death. It is rooted in our evolutionary past and is quintessentially love’s natural protector. Just as the devil has to be beautiful in order to seduce, the green-eyed monster is also sexy as hell, who can resist their quick and tempting tongues. Romantic jealousy is not a useless emotion – it is as necessary as love and sex and we should flag it with electric neon and learn how to use the switches better.  Some people come through our lives geared with certainties with no certainty and just pass, others transform us leaving lights on in all the rooms.  And there are not many people out there that are not scared of the dark.

Janette Ayachi is the Poetry School’s Digital Poet in Residence. Follow her on the blog here.

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Image: Keoni Cabral