“Parallel Universe” by Marion Shore (published in Volume 13 Issue 2 (2002) of The Formalist) evokes the feelings of unrequited love in a unique and poignant way. It has a highly scientific tone that distances the feelings of rejection, holding them off until the antepenultimate line (And yes I do mean third from the end, not second). It is yet another sonnet (if you’d like to know why the sonnet is so perfect for the English language, see Mike Snider’s Formal Blog and Sonnetarium. Thanks Chris), which you may find will be a recurring theme in my analyses.
There are two blips on my rhyme meter. Slant rhyme is used in the L2/L4 rhyme and in the closing couplet. In this particular case, I think the slant rhymes work, though I would normally expect either all (or mostly) slant, or all perfect rhymes. Why does it work this time? Because in both cases, the slants are used to pick out a theme from the rest of the poem. It is the same theme in both cases, and the nature of the theme matches the technique used to highlight it. What I am talking about is the idea or feeling of being out of place, the idea that “time is out of joint”, the impression of imperfection and the placement of that imperfection at the universal level. The use of imperfect rhyme perfectly complements the meaning of the poem and puts me in awe. Although there is much else to admire in the poem, I think because it is so rare to see such direct cohesion between form and meaning even in the well-known poets that this may be my favorite part of this poem.
The poem, as its title suggests, posits a parallel universe in which an unrequited love is requited. It poses the reasons that the love is unrequited, and brushes them aside with a mere stroke of fancy. The speaker seems somewhat self-deluded and yet nevertheless does not strike us as hopeless, but instead as coming to grips with reality in a unique way which allows her love to exist on one plane while acknowledging its loss on another.
The theme of unrequited love is virtually a universal experience, and as such, the poem speaks to the rejected in all of us. It tells us that it is not our fault, and that had things just been different we might have triumphed where we have failed.