By: Jenna Ferguson
Nowadays, there are so many ways to prove your undying affection to your beloved. There are cards, chocolates, stuffed animals, jewelry, dates and other various gifts.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still love the way you had to prove your undying affection back in the day – with poetry (not that I would ever reject Ghirardelli or a new plushy pet).
I read love poems all year. Maybe it is because I am a hopeless romantic, or maybe it is because I am a bookworm. Either way, I have compiled a list of my personal favorites, just in time for the sappiest season of the year.
You can read them on your own, or with a special someone (or maybe even a not-so-special someone. No judgments here).
“Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare
What better way to start a list of love poems than with one of the masters? Not to be confused with Sonnet 18 (think, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”), Sonnet 130 is not about the fairest maiden of them all.
Bad hair day? Check. Rank breath? Check. Top it off with an unsettling voice, and we have on our hands a perfectly imperfect woman, and yet, he loves her as she is. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the original “Just the Way You Are.”
“The Hug” by Thom Gunn
In one simple, sincere hug, all memory of a certain, inextricable comfort that accompanies true love can be refreshed. This is not a fussy, intimidating piece. There are no century-old language barriers. It is about being caught in and embracing (no pun intended) a moment.
“How do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
There is a new DIY gift that seems to be popular for holidays and anniversaries: writing 52 things you love about your significant other on a deck of 52 cards. Sonnets are short, sweet, and to the point by nature, and in this particular piece, Browning proves that sometimes, quality trumps quantity. Fourteen lines and six declarations is all it takes.
“A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti
This right here is the precise antonym of being one’s own valentine. Finding the love of her life is life altering, and the world suddenly seems brighter. It is sweet, right? Reading this makes it hard to resist the notion that finding love brings a new, unexpected joy to life.
“I Carry Your Heart With Me” by E.E. Cummings
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” has become a go-to affirmation in long distance relationships. Those who have experienced a love in which their significant other is always on their mind will relate after the first couple lines. Anything is possible, surmountable, and nothing is to be feared, as long as you know, somewhere out there, someone is prepared to love and support you. However, anyone who does not do pet names may want to steer clear of these nickname-smattered stanzas.
“He and I” by Lang Leav
It is modern. It is to the point. It is relationship goals in seven simple lines. These two do not need to say anything. Sometimes, ironically, words fail. Saying three special words is not special unless every once in awhile, you do not have to say them to know the phrase stands true.
“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats
Consider yourself warned: this poem conjures up mental images of “The Notebook,” but that’s the problem with poems like these – it is difficult to resist the bittersweet reality that can accompany romance. A clever man took note of his experience falling for his young love, and after years of cherishing one another, she gets to look back at how it all started in his eyes. I promise, it is not as long as I make it seem, but it is far sweeter than I could give it credit for.
Each of these poems has a painfully obvious common thread, love, but not one of them is the same as another. They each depict a different type of love, and a different facet of a relationship. In this list, you will find sentimentality, sheer (if not slightly brutal) honesty, new lovers, and enduring bonds, but overall, I hope that the poems in this list express what I love most about love itself: it is so many things at once, just as it always has been.
“There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Sensible Thing