The Poetry of Danielle Steel

by Lamar Clarkson

Danielle Steel, the bestselling novelist, also happens to be a published poet. In the ’70s and ’80s she sold poems to Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, and in 1984 Steel came out with the collection Love, which is the only (or at least the pinkest) mass-market paperback of poetry I have ever had in my possession. Doing away with author praise and marketing copy, the back cover is simply emblazoned with this line: EVERYBODY READS DANIELLE STEEL. And you should too. She has a lot to teach us!

Even the table of contents has a narrative arc. The progression is as untidy and repetitive as the lives of many of us (non-celebrity) civilians, but with a happy ending that any longtime patient of psychotherapy would aspire to.

In these poems there are no bodices available for ripping, no garter belts or marabou (unlike at, say, real-life Halloween parties). But the relationships are recognizable! Let’s start with the non-boyfriend, a.k.a. the fake boyfriend, a.k.a. that relationship no one admits is a relationship, where one side downplays her feelings to keep the other one around. In “Only Close,” Steel dubs this guy the “runner man.” We’re picking up mid-poem:

Skipping to the end:

But then even the sex part starts to suck! In “Carved in Stone,” Steel (er, “the speaker”) addresses a beau who has just left the room, describing how once-good love now leaves her cold.

Isn’t this the poem we were all trying to write in Intro to Poetry? I think mine had to do with welding, and my friend’s revolved around a white thong. But essentially yes. Neither of us came up with a clincher like this, though:

When love is good again:

After enduring months of face hunger, we find ourselves shacking up. Wait, why are we doing that again?

Subtract the daring enjambment and add a blinking laptop cursor with a voiceover and you basically have Carrie Bradshaw, 15 years ahead of schedule, but without those annoying egg-white omelets. Our narrator eats real eggs. (We know this because she is always making breakfast for men who may not return.) The closer:

You know how time passes? Slowly laying waste to the present until, no matter how many Gilmore Girls reruns you watch, it vanishes and you find yourself living the life of a stranger with the same hair as you? Steel knows too. In “Fingering Our Land,” she captures the ickiness of vacationing alone, “standing/ twixt/ our sea/ and sky” in a place full of memories:

Eww! The beach IS sometimes like a cemetery where happiness is buried. HOWEVER COMMA metaphors, unlike most breakups, can be reversed. If we take those flying birds and invest them with the failures of our bad exes, we can, in a Steelian U-turn of the heart, recognize them as the men who abandoned us. In “Soaring Silver Bird” our heroine sees one of these bird-exes in the sky and prays for safety. Let’s hold hotness and confusion and hands and make a pact with our pain,

In the final chapter-poem of Steel’s MFA in life, our speaker closes with an all-out appeal not for beauty — sorry, urns! — but for love. (Even though, yes, first she says to “put your tiara on, / step out / prance high, / chin up, / dance nigh / the flame / with eyes aglow.”)


Lamar Clarkson reads Danielle Steel.