March 1, 2021

On Love Poetry

It’s been enough time that the candy aisles in Target are flipping from Valentines straight to a strange mishmash of St. Patrick’s and Easter. But the taste of overpriced, pink-coated candies and red chocolate roses still lingers. It is never too late for expressions of love.

And what about the lovey-dovey poetry that is plastered all over the back of Valentine’s day cards? The same Shakespearean sonnet recited over and over again?

Do you want a couple of examples of love poetry that you maybe haven’t heard of? Love poetry that is strange and not overwrought or over recited? Some love poetry that maybe isn’t exemplary of romantic love?

I have some recommendations, in no particular order. I’ve started with more traditional love poetry at the top of the list before moving into other sorts of love: filial, self, and anything in between. And I’ve included some of my favorite lines!

“Wife” by Ada Limón (2018)
“she who cries / in the mornings, she who tears a hole / in the earth and cannot stop grieving, / the one who wants to love you, but often / isn’t good at even that, the one who / doesn’t want to be diminished / by how much she wants to be yours.”

“Vita Nova” by Louise Glück (1999)
“I remember sounds like that from my childhood, / laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful, / something like that.”

“Separation, A Poem” by W.S. Merwin (1993)
“Your absence has gone through me / Like thread through a needle. / Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

“Trevor” by Ocean Vuong (2019)
“Both of you lying beneath the slide: two commas with no words, at last, to keep you / apart. You / who crawled from the wreckage summer like sons leaving their mothers’ bodies.”

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver (2004)
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves. / Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.”

“Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised As A Love Poem” by Matthew Olzmann (2010)
“Because when you read / that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing / except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self / and to be consumed in flames.”

“Stairway to Heaven” by Alison Hawthorne Deming (2014)

“I remember the dream where / brother and sister, adult and equal, // lean and white as lilies, as bare, / dove into a mountain lake, black water, // high elevation, fir trees growing / in flood water that had joined // two lakes into one.”

“Pledge Allegiance” by Natalie Scenters-Zapico (2020)
“But only the border agent replies, / Do you know the pledge of allegiance?// She points to a flag pinned on a wall. I do, so I stand and pledge to / the country / that says it loved me so much, it loves me so much it wants to take // my mother far away from me.”

“Triple Sonnet for my Aggressive Forehead” by Dorothy Chan (2018)
“and yes, if I fill out a survey / from a sex magazine, I’m checking off / forehead as my favorite part.”

“If All My Relationships Fail and I Have No Children Do I Even Know What Love Is” by Patrick Rosal (2018)
“To be sure her pops knows he has done / a good job       she nods        Good job       Good /Maybe you’re right              I don’t know what love is / A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head / and knocks her glasses cockeyed.”

—Lauren Davila