We celebrate Valentine's Day this Monday, and in observance of the holiday, our topic this week is (yes, you guessed it!) love.
The love poem's history is long and distinguished and includes Sappho's love poems, the Ancient Egyptians' love poems, the "Song of Songs" ("Song of Solomon") from the Bible, love poems sung by the troubadours, Shakespeare's "dark lady" sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)," William Butler Yeats's "When You Are Old," and hundreds of others. I like to think that love poems have been around as long as love itself.
In writing love poems this week, there are two important requirements:
1. Avoid the pitfall of being sentimental, maudlin, or "mushy."
2. Use the word love no more than twice (or not at all) within your poem.
The challenge is to evoke the essence/feeling of love without mentioning "love" directly. The idea is to focus on imagery – as William Carlos Williams wrote, "No ideas but in things." What images will tell your love story?
Before you begin, here are some examples of famous love poems:
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When You are Old by W. B. Yeats
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130) by William Shakespeare
Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (249) by Emily Dickinson
The Look by Sara Teasdale
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond by e. e. cummings
Lullaby by W. H. Auden
A Line-storm Song by Robert Frost
A Love Song by William Carlos Williams
To Dorothy by Marvin Bell
The Kiss by Stephen Dunn
Suggestions for your poems:
- Write a poem about your first love.
- Write a love letter in the form of a poem.
- Write a poem about unrequited love.
- Write a poem about a lost love.
- Write a poem about an impossible love.
- Write a poem about a love other than romantic (friend, family member).
- Write a poem about "puppy love" (about a real dog, cat, or other pet).
- Write a "love poem" in praise of nature or some aspect of the natural world.
- Write a formal love sonnet (Shakespearean form: 14 lines with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet).
- Write a funny love poem, a love limerick, or a parody of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)."
If you enjoy reading love poems, here are some great ones
(all available on the Internet, just Google the title with the poet's name).
Enjoy! Happy Valentine's Day!
(Lord Byron) “When We Two Parted”
(Hayden Carruth) “Letter to Denise”
(Emily Dickinson) “I never lost as much but twice”
(John Donne) “The Flea”
(e. e. cummings) “my father lived through dooms of love”
(Robert Frost) “Love and a Question”
(Maria Mazziotti Gillan) “It’s Complicated, This Loving Now”
(Dorianne Laux) “The Shipfitter’s Wife”
(Andrew Marvell) “The Definition Of Love”
(Edna St. Vincent Millay) “Love Is Not All”
(Pablo Neruda) “Love Sonnet XVII”
(Alexander Pushkin) “The Wondrous Moment”
(Rainer Maria Rilke) “Again And Again”
(Carl Sandburg) “Under the Harvest Moon”
(Anne Sexton) “The Big Heart”
(Percy Bysshe Shelley) “Music, When Soft Voices Die”
(Walt Whitman) “To a Stranger”
(William Butler Yeats) “Brown Penny”