How to Write a Love Poem
Giving your lover a poem can be one of those show-stopping, OMG moments under the right conditions. Conditions? Isn't love unconditional, you ask? Ha! What a sentimental dolt you are! Let me give you a hint: you may not want to give your lover a poem if , for example, s/he:
- Hates poetry
- Is a very accomplished poet and you are not
Given, however, that both poetry and love can be highly unpredictable, I could be completely wrong. The fact is that there is no way you can predict whether or not your love poem will be welcomed or spurned by its recipient. You'll just have to wait and find out with the rest of us.
Following are a few pointers that may help make your love poem offering a success.
Step One: Read Some Love Poems
No need for you to re-invent the wheel, here. It's been done, bucko! Here's Sonnet 18, by William Shakespeare:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Immortality is not a bad gift to give, wouldn't you say? Let's examine what The Bard has done.
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
Oh, yes, please do. Tentative, like a lover's first caress, it echoes the silent question contained therein.
"Thou art more lovely and more temperate.."
Okay, I'm prettier and environmentally superior. Keep talking...
"Rough winds do shake the darling buds of may...."
Ooh, when he says "rough" it's sooo sexy. If you go through the poem, line by line, you see that each word and phrase has its use in keeping the romantic mood of the poem.
What else is going on? Metre is going on, that's what. Iambic pentameter, to be precise. Weaker first syllable, stronger second, uh-HUH, uh-HUH, uh-HUH, uh-HUH, uh-HUH, across the page. It sounds like making love, doesn't it?
So he goes on, comparing her quite favorably to a summer's day, and then transcends the comparison all the way to eternity. "Forever" is a very romantic concept, after all.
Chances are that neither you nor I will write a poem with the longevity this one has enjoyed, but we can use the master's tools and techniques to craft something nice for our own love all the same. As in love itself, if you take your time and think always of your partner, you will be successful.
Step Two: Subject Matter
Love poems have the advantage of being about something predetermined. It can be about any one of - or all of - your lover's many wonderful attributes, or it can be about your feelings for your lover, or it can be about your relationship over time, past, present and future; but it should be about something you care deeply about so that your feelings can show through. Whatever the poem is about, it is all about your feelings and emotions, whether it says so in plain words or not.
The best love poems do not blurt out their love; they couch their love on sensory cushions, details of sight, sound and touch that resonate in your being and your lover's. Your poem might reference a romantic place you shared, or a special time, or it might touch on something you both share that is only known to the two of you.
Step Three: Meter and Rhyme
Although it is not necessary for you to use an established poetic form such as the sonnet above to compose your poem, it might be a good place to start. Personally I find that conforming to the rules of a form makes me think harder and choose my words more carefully.
Once you write a few lines in a meter such as iambic pentameter you will see how well it flows, as well as how it gives your words an urgency that demands attention. Rhyme is less important, but can help establish your love poem's relationship to the love song in your lover's mind. If you can make it rhyme and flow sensually as it must, by all means do so. Go carefully, however, because rhyme can also be hilarious if too obviously contrived. If you are stymied by a rhyme, just leave it and keep going. You can always go back to it. In the end, your poem may or may not rhyme. You'll see what works best for you.
Shakespeare's sonnet is written in iambic pentameter and has a rhyme scheme of A, B, A, B, C, D, C, D, E, F, E, F, G, G. Your poem does not have to be a sonnet. Read a few poems and pattern yours after one you like. For a very funny reference guide on poetic forms, I recommend "How To Be Well-Versed In Poetry" edited by E.O. Parrott.
After you've scratched out a few lines in some kind of poetic form you can start to mold your poem into its final state.
Step Four: Read Your Poem To Yourself
Someplace where the poem's intended recipient can't hear you, read the poem aloud. Notice where it is awkward, where a rhyme seems forced, where it is bursting out of its form. Edit and repeat. Edit and repeat. If you feel unsure you are making the right decisions, read the poem to a trusted friend or former English teacher. Ask for suggestions, if you like. When it feels smooth and natural, as when you enfold your lover in your arms, it is ready to be given.
Step Five: Presentation
Prepare the poem for presentation. It should be written or printed in ink on nice paper. If you draw, you might include a small picture on the same page to illustrate part of the meaning of the poem. If it's a short poem, such as Sonnet 18, you might put it in a blank greeting card: maybe something with red roses on it.
Wait until the time is right. You should be together in a relatively quiet place where there won't be too much external stimulae to distract from the poem. A romantic venue can only work to your advantage. A little candlelight wouldn't hurt.
You will have to decide whether to read the poem to your lover or let them read it to themselves. Once it is read, don't speak. Wait patiently for your lover's reaction.
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