Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and there’s nothing that echoes sentiments of love better than the words of a poet—the romantics who voice our emotions in pretty prose. Whether you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing love for yourself or to someone else, there’s nothing like a poem to remind you of the beauty of true love. From classics to contemporary, here are five poems of love for you this Valentine’s Day.
It’s only fitting to begin with John Keats, a man most notably known for his words about love.
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art by John Keats
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
Clare McCallan, a spoken word poet, writes of lingering love mixed with bittersweet memories of what was lost.
Singular, in Irish by Clare McCallan
English is one of the few languages that doesn’t have a word that means both hello and goodbye. We lack a “ciao” or “aloha,” so we pretend permanence, refusing to acknowledge that a hello could double as a goodbye.
Even whipped into Irish cream with the twirl of a lilted tongue, English doesn’t have a phrase for those days where your first and last kiss aren’t even separated by a sunrise.
And so, lacking a proper term for these Lasts sugar coated in Firsts, we call them what they are: “singular.” If you read the definition dry-eyed, you’ll believe that “singular” means “just one.” But if you read it the way it was meant to be read, through salt water lenses, you’ll learn it as “extraordinary and exceptional.” I for one, prefer the Atlantic translation.
And if you read on, any lexicon worth its weight in paper will tease about the dual nature of singularity: that a verb weighs quite a bit more than a noun (in the ways that matter), and that a thing’s rarity doesn’t prove it’s value (in the ways that matter).
See, like Miriam and Webster, there are plenty of rare rocks that I don’t much care for, diamonds chief amongst them. But I’d bet all the whipped cream left on my tongue that a memory’s longevity proves it’s value. ‘Cause in the end, there’s just something more romantic about durability than shine. And the memories that keep waving hello in the back of my brain long after their reality winks farewell—well I’d reckon those are the types of valuables I’d like to have tied around my finger someday.
Rupi Kaur’s simplicity is rather beautiful in her short prose.
Rupi Kaur, author of “Milk and Honey”
you must have a
for a heart
could a man
be this sweet
Pablo Neruda’s book of One Hundred Love Sonnets captures the emotion tied to the idea of love, but this sonnet rather encapsulates the kind of love that’s unexplainable.
One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII by Pablo Neruda, translated by Mark Eisner
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
In her writing, Jennifer Love depicts everyday love and the love of reality, not of dreams.
Love Explained by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Guy calls the doctor, says the wife’s
contractions are five minutes apart.
Doctor says, Is this her first child?
guy says, No, it’s her husband.
I promise to try to remember who
I am. Wife gets up on one elbow,
says, I wanted to get married.
It seemed a fulfillment of some
several things, a thing to be done.
Even the diamond ring was some
thing like a quest, a thing they
set you out to get and how insane
the quest is; how you have to turn
it every way before you can even
think to seek it; this metaphysical
refraining is in fact the quest. Who’d
have guessed? She sighs, I like
the predictability of two, I like
my pleasures fully expected,
when the expectation of them
grows patterned in its steady
surprise. I’ve got my sweet
and tumble pat. Here on earth,
I like to count upon a thing
like that. Thus explained
the woman in contractions
to her lover holding on
the telephone for the doctor
to recover from this strange
conversational turn. You say
you’re whom? It is a pleasure
to meet you. She rolls her
eyes, but he’d once asked her
Am I your first lover? and she’d
said, Could be. Your face looks
familiar. It’s the same type of
generative error. The grammar
of the spoken word will flip, let alone
the written, until something new is
in us, and in our conversation.
Poetry can emulate love and the range in which we experience it. It can resemble love’s intensity and pain, as well as its simplicity and wistfulness. Love can be the everyday kind, fiery or beautiful. Use this Valentine’s Day to celebrate the people in your life and let them know that they are loved.
Share the love this Valentine’s Day with the Darling Conversation Cards. Every card has question prompts for you and your loved ones to enrich your relationships with deeper dialogue.