Sunday, February 14, 2016

In honor of Valentine’s Day: Writing a love poem

During the month of February, over 131 million cards are manufactured to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The messages may be simple or elaborate, silly or sentimental. For the poet, however, writing a love poem is truly a labor of love. It’s hard sometimes to find the right words or images to express one’s feelings for another person. Perhaps the best way to start is to read love poems written by the masters.

One of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, has written of love in many forms. In his One Hundred Love Sonnets, he writes: “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” Here love is something honored but hidden. Sometimes he writes about unrequited love: “so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me. Till then my windows ache.” The writing is full of longing and loss. These words almost seem too sad to put into print but the poet perseveres because he has a desperate need to give voice to his feelings.

    There are many different kinds of love poems. Some are funny and playful while others tug at our heart strings. Christina Rossetti wrote: “I loved you first: but afterwards your love /Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song.” My all time favorite love poem is Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” where he writes: “Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove.” He references “pretty lambs” and “beds of roses.” Love poems have always been connected to springtime and the awakening of the natural world.

I often use my journal as a way to harness feelings and these fragments sometimes work their way into a poem. When my youngest son was fourteen, we spent an afternoon taking a long walk. I felt a real connection with him and wrote a poem about the experience entitled “The Power Lines.” I ended the poem: “Now, you take my hand. You are no longer a child, but you are my child. A sliver of moon rises over our heads.” This poem expresses my love for my child in a way a prose piece couldn’t.

Many times love poems incorporate memories of people we once loved. In my poem “On Considering Eye Surgery.” I wrote: “When you said good-by, I saw a globe of light floating away.” My imperfect vision  referenced the splintering of a relationship. In “Missing Person,” I wrote about my first boyfriend: “Simple things are left. A man and a woman walked together down a road.” The writing is also simple because I wanted to strip away the extraneous elements to the essence of our bond.

Don’t be afraid to try a love poem. It is a way to open up your inner voice and touch on universal human emotions. The poet Ellen Bass in her poem “The Morning After,” highlights those moments of passion and love that come to all of us: “I can’t see a trace of the little slice of heaven/we slipped into last night—a silk kimono floating satin ponds and copper koi, stars falling to the water.”

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