Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and we all know that the letter, not the gift, is the hardest part. To buy or make a gift—that requires shelling out some cash (plus a little thought). And yes, feeling the emptiness of the wallet hurts. But the letter is the part where feelings and emotions are verbalized and articulated. A lot of times, they can’t be. There’s something so inexpressible about love that words are many times not enough.
And that’s why poems have become so popular on Valentine’s Day. They’re much shorter than a full–length letter and they’re abstract and general enough that the mind is free to wonder what each line means. They’re also difficult. Before you write the words “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, and so are you,” think of other ways to express your love.
Love After Love
“ Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.” – Walter Scott
This should be your first Valentine. Written by Scott, a Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1992, this poem ’s a reminder to love yourself first.
She Walks in Beauty
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.” – Lord Byron
Arguably the most famous romantic piece of poetry in English literature, She Walks in Beauty traces the detail of the lover, capturing the imagery and mood of even the smallest minutiae.
“Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.” – Carol Ann Duffy
While this poem is literally titled Valentine, the Valentine takes on a new meaning. It’s not just a day of exchanging gifts as dictated by social norms. It’s a day to give to the significant other a reminder of your love.
At the end of the day, though, what makes any letter or any gift special is making it personal. Of course, copying a poem or finding a poem that really speaks to the relationship is without fault. Pick up a pencil. Write—even if that means just modifying some of the best love poems (that aren’t cheesy) for your Valentine’s.