Ah, love poems. February 14th is coming up fast. Perhaps you want to write a love poem to your significant other. Or maybe you need a love poem to yourself. Nothing wrong with that. A love poem to the furry presence in your life? No problem. Read it to your cat or dog and let them know how much they mean to you. There are no limits on love poetry.
Well, one limit. Please don’t imitate Shakespeare. Or Petrarch. Or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Or any of the old classic poets, really. No ‘Thee’s’ and ‘Thou’s’. Unless you’re doing a parody. But definitely read some Pablo Neruda, how could you not be inspired? There are plenty of contemporary poets writing love poems. Sometimes they’re not as overt as they were in the past. No bashing you over the head with flowers and chocolates and Hallmark cards.
Nothing More Than Feelings…
This brings us to the first and foremost thing about a love poem. Feelings. Good love poems are rift with feelings. Not just the mushy kind either. Anger, fear, lust, and revulsion all have a place in love poetry. Even zombies, because I suspect there is a good zombie love poem floating out around there somewhere. (If so, send it our way) The problem with love poems is you have to dig deep inside yourself for those true feelings to express. It’s hard. It’s scary. Who wants to put their eww, emotions, in the open for all to see? (I know, I know, extroverts. Introverts would rather take a bullet.)
But that’s what makes a good love poem. Honest emotions are not prettied up with cliché. Love can be the manure sticking to the bottom of your boots after you let your lover sleep in while you feed the horses. Be true to yourself sounds like a bad Instagram post, but it is the basis for your best love poetry.
Ignore the easy metaphor, dig deep, and think hard about comparisons. “Love is the McIntosh apple at the bottom of the bin, bruised, half-rotted, still hoping to be chosen.” Don’t take the easy way out and pull a Burns. “O my Luve is like a red, red rose.” Flowers are easy; everyone likes flowers—unless you’re allergic. Love poem featuring antihistamines? An Epipen?
Love poems set you free
Romance isn’t always sappy. Sometimes it has a backbone of iron. Tap into that. Rip those clichés to pieces and come out with something new. Something tense and wild. Make your reader sit up and pay attention because they don’t know what’s coming next. Reel them in like a gaping fish. Slip your intimacy under their front door. Pour details into every coffee cup in their house. Here’s the hard part. You have to have something in common with the reader. Almost everyone has experienced love. But not your kind of love. Invite them in. Invite them to love with you, so they take a little piece of your experience along with them when they go out into the world looking for a love poem of their own.