The exploration of love is one of the timeless subjects of poetry. However, so many love poems have been written that it can be a challenge to find an original way to write one.
Take a look at Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "Sonnet 43," possibly the most famous love poem written in the English language. What does it tell you about love—and how?
Some examples of contemporary love poems that tackle the subject in a fresh way include: "It Was Raining in Delft" by Peter Gizzi, "Credo" by Matthew Rohrer, and "[You did say, need me less and I'll want you more]" by Marilyn Hacker. What do these poems tell you about love? How are these poets' approaches different from Browning's?
Make a list of words that you expect to find in a love poem: heart, soul, eyes, lips, etc. What places and times of day seem most romantic? What characteristics of a person would one most likely catalog in a love poem? Once you have your list, set it aside.
Now make another list—this time, of traditionally unromantic words, places, times, or attributes. Work quickly and don't think too much. The idea is to get a long list of words or phrases (at least 30) you can pull from. Your list might include taking out the trash, waiting in a parking lot, or the extra skin on your elbow. Be creative, humorous, or irreverant.
If you're working on this exercise with others, try trading lists with someone else. If not, put your lists away for a while and try to forget what all you've included.
When you're ready to start your poem, take a look at your second list, and try to think of what it might take for each of those seemingly unromantic words and images to suddenly seem romantic. For example, taking out the trash or waiting in a parking lot could be romantic if you were doing them as a favor for someone else, or as a surprise. Use this list to help you remember (or imagine) a moment that shouldn't have been romantic but was.
Write a poem that describes that single romantic moment in detail, but without using any of the words from your first list. In revision, focus on specific details that show how deeply you've remembered or imagined the experience.
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Peter Gizzi, Matthew Rohrer, Marilyn Hacker, Love Poems