Kevin Fennell, Aesthetic Realism associate and critic of music, writes:
I love the poem by Eli Siegel “The World Says, I’m Your Valentine, My Dear”! In a charming, humorous, greatly musical, yet strictly logical way it illustrates a central idea of Aesthetic Realism: that every person’s deepest, most insistent desire is to like the world.
Before studying Aesthetic Realism, I felt I had to protect myself from a world I saw as mostly unfriendly to me—or at best, indifferent—and as a result I felt increasingly unhappy and alone. Aesthetic Realism taught me that the world has a beautiful, sensible structure—the oneness of opposites—that I can honestly like and respect all the time. Seeing this has given me the sweet relief of feeling the world is truly my friend, is on my side. The difference has been like a change from night to day! I love the happy life I’ve got, which includes my marriage to Carol McCluer.
In this magnificent poem, Eli Siegel has the world in all its largeness and power speak for itself in a tender, even intimate, yet firm way.
The World Says, I’m Your Valentine, My Dear
Says the world to every person:
“I am your Valentine.”
And nearly every person answers, who hears at all:
“I want to be my own Valentine.
Besides, there are people I know
Who aren’t as vague and as big as you are,
Whom I can hug.
How can I hug you,
You unseen thing,
Just around, just around?”
And the world might answer:
“I’m much more beautiful than you know.
It is true, I can take a fearful form.
I can disgust you and frighten you, too.
And I can puzzle you.
And there is so much of me you don’t even know exists.
Still, if you’re going to be your own Valentine,
The real thing,
You won’t impress yourself,
Unless you are sure you like me enough.
I am the way to a person’s liking himself.
And if this sounds religious—
All real Valentines have something of the religious.
I don’t mind at all your being your own Valentine,
Because if you succeed, I’ll be there.
I made up a little song just for myself,
But since I’m talking to you, you can hear it.
The song goes this way:
I’m the world and I’m everybody’s Valentine.
And they’ll know it some day.
Right now, people don’t care too much
About the way they see me;
But I snuggle in your heart, my lad.
I’m within all of you, my dear.
There isn’t a girl and there isn’t a boy
Who doesn’t employ
Me to be all he can be.
There is something in every girlie and laddie
That hates me, for he thinks and she thinks she needs nothing outside.
So I sing this: Every girlie is the outside,
Not just the dim inside.
Every laddie is wide and wide.
When a girl was born,
I was there.
When a boy was born,
I was there.
My other name is Life.
I am your Valentine,
Thine, my dear, thine.
It was I who arranged for you to be here,
So I’m your Valentine, my dear.”
[February 10, 1978]