I need help finding a reading for my wedding
November 28, 2017 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for something written by a radical or at least very leftist writer about love/relationships/marriage. It's for my wedding. All the details are inside.

My fiancee wants to honor the traditions of our families. She has various ethnicities of the British Isles with Scottish traditions and themes and such. I am the product of two parents who came from families that actively tried to discard their traditions. On the other hand, both my parents were heavily politically active and radical leftists in their younger days. I wasn't quite a red-diaper baby, but I wasn't far off either.

I'd like to honor that part of my past. I'm looking for a writing by a socialist or democratic socialist or proto-communist (no Lenin, Trotsky or Mao, sorry) on marriage, love and living together. Hopefully not too sappy, but also I'd rather it be about love and not the revolution.

I don't know the literature to know where to start. My first instincts are to start with Belinsky, who I remember enjoying reading in college (in translation, I don't know Russian) or maybe even seeing if Chernyshevsky is as bad as I remember. But this is from taking a course on the 19th century Russian Intelligentsia back in college. I know there are influential socialist writers outside of Russia, but beyond Goldman, I'm at a loss.

This should be maybe a page or two, but if you want to direct me to a longer work, I'll happily read through it.
posted by Hactar to Human Relations (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there's Emma Goldman's Marriage and Love, but only if you're getting married ironically.
posted by perspicio at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oops! I missed the fact that you mentioned Goldman.
posted by perspicio at 7:41 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the laws on the statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it from the soil, once love has taken root. If, however, the soil is sterile, how can marriage make it bear fruit? It is like the last desperate struggle of fleeting life against death.

Love needs no protection; it is its own protection. So long as love begets life no child is deserted, or hungry, or famished for the want of affection. I know this to be true.


In our present pygmy state love is indeed a stranger to most people. Misunderstood and shunned, it rarely takes root; or if it does, it soon withers and dies. Its delicate fiber can not endure the stress and strain of the daily grind. Its soul is too complex to adjust itself to the slimy woof of our social fabric. It weeps and moans and suffers with those who have need of it, yet lack the capacity to rise to love’s summit.

Some day, some day men and women will rise, they will reach the mountain peak, they will meet big and strong and free, ready to receive, to partake, and to bask in the golden rays of love. What fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can foresee even approximately the potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women. If the world is ever to give birth to true companionship and oneness, not marriage, but love will be the parent."

That's Emma Goldman. A bit down on the institution, but very pro-freely chosen love.
posted by praemunire at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not exactly a heavyweight, but how about Frida Kahlo?
A couple ideas, there are more to be found:

You deserve a lover who wants you disheveled, with everything and all the reasons that wake you up in a haste and the demons that won’t let you sleep.
You deserve a lover who makes you feel safe, who can consume this world whole if he walks hand in hand with you; someone who believes that his embraces are a perfect match with your skin.
You deserve a lover who wants to dance with you, who goes to paradise every time he looks into your eyes and never gets tired of studying your expressions.
You deserve a lover who listens when you sing, who supports you when you feel shame and respects your freedom; who flies with you and isn’t afraid to fall.
You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.
posted by littlewater at 7:46 PM on November 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

Maybe give bell hooks' All About Love a read?
posted by kylej at 8:34 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
--- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Don't know her politics, but I do love her poem.
posted by TrishaU at 9:08 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you want people to cry? You can totally make people cry. My husband and I chose two readings that were beautiful and serious. One of them was part of the text from the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court majority opinion on marriage equality. Much of his family is staunch Southern Baptist and socially conservative. It was a sneaky sort of way to put our socially progressive agenda into our marriage manifesto.

“From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union … always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. … Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.
“The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together. Confucius taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government. This wisdom was echoed centuries later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, ‘The first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then the family.”
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. … [M]arriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.”

Our other reading was from "The Amber Spyglass" by Philip Pullman, who identifies as an atheist and is politically liberal. Not a dry eye in the house.
"I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me."

Good luck finding something perfect, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding!
posted by honeybee413 at 9:44 PM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

An honorable human relationship - that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love" - is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way for us.

Adrienne Rich
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:52 PM on November 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

“Your love to each other means an affirmative desire towards the Other person - to respect the Other person, to pay attention to the Other person, not to destroy the otherness of the Other person - and this is the preliminary affirmation, even if afterwards, because of this love, you ask questions, criticize, and sometimes oppose one another. In the final instance, deconstruction is not negative although negativity is no doubt at work. Now, in order to criticise, to negate, to deny, you have first to say "yes". When each one of you addresses the Other person in your married life, even if it is to oppose the Other person, you are making a sort of promise - that is, to address the Other person as truly someone different from you, not to reduce the otherness of the Other, and to take into account the singularity of the Other person. That's an irreducible affirmation.”

posted by PinkMoose at 10:01 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Erich Fried

A Love Poem for Freedom and a Freedom Poem for Love ~Erich Fried~

With freedom
it's much the same as with love

Suppose after all these years what they call happiness
takes me out of the locked cupboard again

and says: 'Have another go!
Let's see how you manage'

Shall I then breathe in deeply and open my arms
and be young again and full of courage

or shall I smell of moth-balls and rattle my bones
to the rhythm of a stranger's heart beat?

With freedom
it's much the same as with love

and with love
it's much the same as with freedom
posted by Gilgongo at 10:10 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Country of Marriage by Wendell Berry, in full or in part. I dont know his politics but he's an environmentalist in Kentucky, which is pretty radical.

I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.


This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth's empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
posted by headnsouth at 5:01 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

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