You Are My Joy and Pain is Naomi Long Madgett’s latest and possibly most endearing poetry collection. Bill Harris, a 2011 Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist, said of the book, “Even with the evidence of over a half-century or more of first-rate poetic artistry by Madgett, this collection is a breath-arresting surprise and delight. Poem-by-poem and section-by-section amaze. Each poem in the collection is a master class in technique and in her ability to transpose an idea into a tightly composed example of the craft of poetry.”
You Are My Joy and Pain receives its name from the Billie Holiday song “Don’t Explain” and is divided into three parts. The first part, “A Promise of Sun,” contains fourteen poems relating to the hopeful and joyful beginning of a new relationship. The second part, “Trinity: A Dream Sequence,” consists of twenty poems with religious imagery and encompasses both the beginning and the end of a relationship. The third part, “Stormy Weather,” includes thirty-two poems that relate to the heartbreaking experience of a love gone wrong. These are not love poems in the abstract—the richness with which Madgett writes hints at the firsthand experience of a lifetime of loving.
While several anthologies of love poems exist in the world, it is rare to find a single-author collection that so closely examines love in all of its messy and beautiful layers. Readers will identify with the hope and disappointment that Madgett presents in these poems.