Summary of “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott

A time comes when a person has a deep sense of self-realization and it is the time when he is able to reconnect and rediscover his own lost self. He begins to like himself for what he is and stops looking for love in the outside world. This is a state of ecstasy and elation.

When a person is able to connect to himself more closely than he did before, he is able to appreciate his being and can love himself. The idea behind the poem is to seek love in oneself than looking for it in others. The biblical meaning of it is that one should not look for perfection as a parameter for love. A person may have different opinions and beliefs, but until you look inside yourself and love yourself, nothing will look perfect to you.

Smiling at own self in the mirror is an expression of discovering oneself truly. The poet suggests that a person’s inner self and he will be in great joy to see each other which clearly depicts the feeling of self-love. Dinner with self implies spiritual fulfillment. The imbiber can fulfill themselves by having wine and bread as instilled by Jesus.

The poet has tried to relate self-realization as the path towards God-realization. The words ‘Stranger who was’ has been used to stress upon the fact that heartbreak can leave a person shattered and deprived of self-awareness. If a person begins to see his image with love and appreciation, he will definitely start loving this stranger who he was himself.

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A person’s inner soul always loves it more than any other person. But he often ignores his real self and values the other person more than it. He doesn’t appreciate himself just because of his love for the other person. But to live with the new love, i.e. love for himself, the person must forget his previous love which he developed for the other person. Then only he can see his own worth and praise himself more than anyone else.

The poet has tried to suggest ways for the person to get rid of the love for the other person. It is urged the person/reader to take out all the love letters, photographs, desperate notes that he may have written or which carry the memories of his past love and remove them. By removing these symbols, the poet wants to free the reader from the burden of a past relationship which will come in his way of self-love if he doesn’t get rid of it. Also, the person/reader should try to imbibe self love by capturing his own lost self-image from the mirror. It is a symbolic way to suggest that the person must start thinking well about his own self and attain sense of self-respect and love.

The central idea of the poem revolves around a person/reader who has disliked himself for a long period of time. The poet has inspired him through his words to accept himself as he is and stop wanting to be like someone else.