Saturday, February 8, 2014

Prompt #176 – All You Need Is Love

This Friday, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, and that makes me think about love poems. Mind you, love poems are among the hardest to write because the pitfalls of clichés, triteness, and sentimentality are ever present, not to mention the fact that pouring intense emotion into written language can present some interesting challenges.

These days, it seems that love poems occupy a place somewhere between hot fudge sundaes and oatmeal. Poets of the past often wrote love poems and there are hundreds for us to read, but there’s not much contemporary interest in moonbeams through willows and the “archaic” romantic meanderings of yesterdays poetic styles.

So, what does make a love poem special by today’s standards? What makes a love poem unique? What gives a love poem the power to touch readers? What makes a love poem more than personal? What makes a love poem universally meaningful? How do modern love poems affirm without sentimentality? One of the best ways to consider these questions is to read numerous examples of contemporary love poems. 


1. Write a poem to someone you love.
2. Write a poem to someone who loves you.
3. Write a poem to a beloved pet.
4. Write a love poem to an inanimate object. (You might try for humor with this one, maybe a limerick.)
5. Write a poem about unrequited love.
6. Write a poem to or about your first love.
7.  Write a poem about an unhappy romance.
8. Write a poem about platonic love.
9. Write a love poem to nature or a particular aspect of the natural world (perhaps an ode).
10. Write a poem based on this quotation from Pablo Neruda: “Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.”
11. Write a poem in which you examine how falling in love creates a new and surprising sense of mortality and fear of death.
13. Write a parody of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous “How Do I Love Thee?” (Sonnet 43).

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


1. The sonnet form is often associated with love poems. Try writing your poem in sonnet form. Work on the form in your early drafts and don’t worry if you decide to scrap it.

2. Write a ghazal (originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love). To learn about ghazal form, try the following links:

3. Work your thoughts through imagery and be sure that you show and not tell about the love in your poem. Images should be crisp and original.

4. Watch out for clichés and “saccharine” expressions, and steer clear of sentimentality. It’s easy to fall into such things when writing love poems. Dare to be different, mysterious, distinctive …

5. If your subject matter is romantic love, try to create an intensity of feeling without using words like beautiful and love. Work toward a subtle sensuality without saying anything overt.

6. Try beginning your love poem with a subordinating conjunction as a way of attracting reader interest and a way of drawing readers into your poem. “Because I loved from a distance …” “Because he/she would never know …” “Because my reason for leaving was never told …”
(Remember Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death/he kindly stopped for me.”)

7. Although the feelings you write about will be personal, work on making your poem universally meaningful.


To All of You from Chaucey and Me


  1. LOVE this lovely prompt about love poems! :-)

    1. And the LOVING picture of you and Chaucey!

      Happy Valentine's Day, Adele!

    2. Awwww, thanks, Jamie! I LOVE your plays on the prompt subject—what fun!

  2. This is great, Adele. Thank you!

  3. Very nice, Adele. I think a lot of poets avoid love poems because they're afraid of being trite or "sappy" (for lack of a better word). I like the way you encourage your blog readers to go ahead and embrace a subject in profound and readable ways (per your guidelines and tips).

    1. Thanks, Rich—great insight, and thanks for your kind words!


  5. A Moment in Paradise

    I wrapped myself around him
    as the waves lapped gently on the shore
    and pearls of heavenly light
    bounced off the placid ocean
    A full moon hung in the indigo sky
    watching our breath rising and falling
    with the gentle swelling of the waves
    Our hearts beat in rhythm
    with the movement of the clouds
    floating in a passing moment of blissful peace

    This poem and others you've seen posted here is included in my most recent book of poetry: Spy in da House. It's available on in both book format and virtual version. Thank all of you for your kind words and for reading mine.

  6. Thanks everyone and most of all, thanks Adele!!

  7. Lovely, Risa! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    And, Everyone, Risa's book is a real gem! Be sure to order a copy via Amazon at:

    Book Description

    Release date: August 23, 2013 | ISBN-10: 149180923X | ISBN-13: 978-1491809235

    "Anais Nin’s Spy in the House of Love inspired the title of my book. The privilege of writing is like a mystical portal. You become an observer, recorder and commentator of life. Much like a spy. No wonder teaching women how to read and write was considered dangerous."

    About the Author

    "I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Rahway, New Jersey, in the '50's and '60's. Hop Scotch on Sabbath was cause for a family uproar in a town that hosted the State Prison where Scared Straight was filmed. I dreamed of jumping railroad cars as they rumbled past my bedroom at night. I'd wonder what was on the other side of the horizon during summers at Bradley Beach. I traveled the world to find out. Now in retirement in tropical, sunny South Florida, I have simplified my life, and these short poems reflect my current life condition."

  8. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! Great prompt for Valentine's week.

    Here’s an interesting read about the day …

    The real history of Valentine's Day is not comprised of roses, chocolates and pretty cards. Instead, crime, imprisonment and execution are at the genesis of our modern day love fest, dating back to the man whose martyrdom may have inspired the holiday. There were reportedly three early Christian saints named Valentine, but the one the holiday likely comes from was a Roman priest during the 3rd century A.D. under Emperor Claudius II.

    The Roman Empire was experiencing massive turmoil at the time. Dubbed the 'Crisis of the Third Century' by scholars, this period saw the empire divide into three competing states, with the threat of invasion all around.

    Claudius made the unpopular decision to ban marriage among young people, believing that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers. With the Roman Empire hanging by a thread, Claudius needed all the brazen war power he could get.

    This is where Valentine comes in; the pesky priest who believed marriage to be a God-given sacrament. Valentine began officiating marriages in secret but was eventually found out and imprisoned. Author Greg Tobin noted that the advent of the Valentine's Day love note may have come about from young children passing Valentine notes through the prison bars, but this may be embellishment to an otherwise tragic story.

    Tobin describes Valentine's fate: The priest was eventually beheaded and then named a martyr by the Church because he gave up his life to perform the sacrament of marriage: for love of love and love of God. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day, and centuries later romantic authors like Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare helped seal the deal with references to the day in their works.

    1. Thanks so much, Bob, and thanks for the history of Valentine's Day!