Love Poems We Love
by Barbara Westwood Diehl
Love poems, like love, can be complicated. Nuanced. Exuberant. Cautious. Lustful. Tender. Broken. Fierce. Full of regret. Full of gratitude. And so much more.
We need love poems. Like we need to think and talk about love. Like we need to love and feel loved.
There is so much to say about love. And there are many wonderful poets who infuse their poems with love. I think this is a good day, a good time, to read these poems.
Some of the BR staff members shared some love poems for this special day. I hope that you’ll read them—and many other fine love poems in the online journals and other websites that make such poems accessible to all.
I found this poem, “Twenty Years hence” by Walter Landor Savage, in my Norton's anthology in 10th grade, read it once, and had it memorized. I've thought of it hundreds of times since. Its wistful wit seems so modern that I'm always shocked to remember the date it was composed. To me, the poem seems like an ideal antidote to every overwrought love sonnet written by someone who will forget the beloved five minutes from now. Landor's restraint holds back a thousand times more intensity than those poems spill. Could anyone wish for a more wry, wistful Valentine?
- Doritt Carroll
We were grateful to be able to publish this heartbreaking, beautiful poem, “Letters in a Box” by Dorianne Laux, in our first online issue (Winter 2012). There is so much love—“massive, a continent/set like a table on the backs/of four elephants”—in this poem. There is also the question that comes at a time of loss for many of us: Would we have lived our lives the same way, treated the person we lost the same way?
Oh, and prose poems? Love them! Like this one, “In Which Love Is a Kind of Falling” by Adrian S. Potter (“a hotel pool you’ve been crashing for years”), from our Fall 2020 issue. and “Tornado” by Callista Buchen (what says love more than “more steel”?), from our Fall 2017 issue.
- Barbara Westwood Diehl
I love this poem, "Hearing about the Wreck" by Adam Houle, as it shows honest and realistic emotions after hearing about the near-death of a loved one. To me, this poem shows that love isn't just warmth and sitting together with coffee. It's all the emotions that come with love, especially fear of loss. And often, that's how we can measure the volume of our love.
This is a classic, William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”), and I enjoy it so much because it turns every cliche and idea of infatuation on its head and ends with real, solid emotion. People we love are not perfect, and they don't need to be. Relationships go far beyond the external.
- Adina Edelman
It is the beating of this poem's dark heart that draws me to it. There is beauty in the enormity of love, but it is shadowed by death, human frailty. The "complications" of “A Pretty Song” by Mary Oliver ring true.
Love is tangible in the quiet, imagined future of "Orchard Charm" by Kara Krewer. Knowledge of the self and of the world runs deep here, so the love of even hypothetical children feels abiding.
- Audrey Gradzewicz
Here is one of my favorites—“A Late Elegy for Jimmy” by David Mura from Volume 41, #4 of the New England Review. I decided to show it some love because the poem celebrates James Baldwin, Miles Davis, and Bessie Smith in an almost musical rhythm, and I love the reference to Baldwin’s sly smile.
- June Locco
This poem, “Egg Tooth” by William Fargason,” explores the vulnerability and discomfort that sometimes accompany love through the metaphor of an egg tooth breaking through a shell. Its simple and gentle language is as comforting as the speaker in the poem, and it suggests a rewarding rebirth in falling in love. It's an authentic and original piece.
- Jennifer Medrano
I’m sharing an old favorite that many of you will know (one of the most erotic and family-oriented love poems ever): Galway Kinnell's "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps"
- Michael Salcman