By Aaron Kunin
Publication Date: May 07, 2019
Love Three is a study of a seventeenth-century devotional poem by George Herbert; an essay on eroticizing power; and a memory palace of sexual experiences, fantasies, preferences, and limits—with Herbert’s poem as the key. It is unlike anything you have ever read—a deep, attentive reading of a text and a broad analysis (personal, historical, philosophical) of humanity’s most enduring theme.
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That’s the magic of Love Three. It sneaks up on you, then overpowers you. The relentless, titillating, intellectual pleasure of it. Of candor, of clear, unfashionable insight, Kunin’s Love Three is a masterpiece.
I recommend this book to anyone curious about new forms in poetry, poetry scholarship, close reading, ekphrastic writing, and anyone blocked in their own work. Kunin’s reworking of Herbert’s sweetly voiced poem is a gift to writers of contemporary poetry; he gives us a hermeneutics we can use.
Ben Fama, Harriet
There’s a clear pattern of advancement and hesitation in Herbert’s poem, and everything—redemption, sanctification, creation—is boiled down to the simplest words in the English language, which is why I’ve been in awe of what Kunin has done in his expansive study. Kunin takes elements of the poem and creates something else entirely. . . . Open Love Three to any section and you get an intimate portrait of both poets, and honest reflections on our most complicated feelings.
Camille Jacobson, Paris Review
Examining his own interests in bondage and humiliation, Kunin jumps from interpretations of Herbert’s poem to arguments about the inconstancy of power and the possibility that submissiveness can (in certain situations) reverse or twist hierarchies. Most importantly, Kunin posits that the desire to submit is not a psychological flaw or an ideological illusion, but is grounded in an understanding that love is not a matter of equality, but of the exploration and invention of compatibilities. . . . Part literary criticism, part fragmentary autobiography and part theory of sexuality, Love Three is a beautiful, thoughtful book, and a great example of interpretation as an act of creation.
Steven Zultanski, Frieze
Aaron Kunin is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, including Love Three (Wave Books, 2019) and the collection of poems Cold Genius (Fence, 2014). He lives in California where he works as a literature professor at Pomona College.
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