Love Poems for Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day, the holiday of romance; a time to express your affection for your partner through chocolate, gifts and, traditionally, poetry. For this special day, we have collated our favourite poems and anthologies that express the beauty of love, in all shapes and sizes.
Variations on the Word Love by Margaret Atwood
As Valentine’s Day approaches and partners come together to express their love for one another in gifts and affection, I am reminded of a poem that on the surface seems to be a bitter and cynical representation of love but is rather a vivid exploration of how love, for each individual, means something unique. Margaret Atwood’s ‘Variations on the Word Love’, published in her anthology True Stories questions how love manifests in the world. Split into two contrasting stanzas and written in free verse, it is beautifully rich, exploring the vagaries of love across the public and the commercial, the private and the personal. She laments that we fall in love but have no rational need for it, as love brings the unknown, delight and fear.
She puts forth the idea that the four-letter word ‘love’ often simply fails to express exactly what we want it to imply. This anthology of poetry questions the very meaning of writing and as with everything that Atwood writes, every beat is significant. This poem stands out for me this Valentine’s Day as we remember, during these difficult times, love is what we make of it.
The Complete Sonnets and Poems of William Shakespeare
With love in the air, it seems fitting to celebrate the Bard. With 154 beautifully crafted sonnets, Shakespeare gives us many works of art to marvel at. Here are three of the best.
The familiarity of ‘Sonnet 18’ contributes to its status as the most famous of the sonnets, beginning with the well-known question ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ The simplicity of the poem and Shakespeare’s ability to convey the intricacies of human emotion through nature makes his sonnets so relatable.
Equally known and loved is ‘Sonnet 116’. When times seem hard, it can be comforting to know we are loved – love is a constant in a world filled with uncertainty. As Shakespeare pens: ‘[Love] is an ever-fixed mark/That looks on tempests and is never shaken’.
At first glance, ‘Sonnet 130’ may seem like the antithesis of love poetry as Shakespeare highlights the seemingly unflattering features of his love interest. Yet the striking rhyming couplet reveals how highly Shakespeare regards his mistress, as their love is rare and incomparable.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, why not revisit the sonnets and rekindle your love of poetry?
Set Me on Fire: A Poem for Every Feeling by Ella Risbridger
This ingenious, emotive and bright poetry anthology, by the esteemed young author Ella Risbridger, is a wonderful cacophony of voices from across the world. With poems included by authors living and dead, it puts the emphasis on feeling and connectedness, serving as beautiful little vignettes of moments in life we can all appreciate, admire, and relate to. It is not heavy or repetitive like so many poetry anthologies tend to be, thanks to the wide berth of contributors and the organisation of poetry not by decade or style, but by emotion.
Risbridger’s commentary is casual and meaningful, as if hugging the reader and encouraging them to read alongside her. It is a wonderfully romantic book, full of meaning and love.
Poems to Fall in Love With – Edited by Chris Riddell
The beautiful thing about this anthology is that it celebrates the different stages and expressions of love. Riddell begins the collection with ‘Love and Friendship’ by Emily Brontë, which strikes a chord in the current climate. It is a celebration of how long-lasting friendship is in the face of the changing seasons. Although this may not be your first go-to poem for Valentine’s Day, on a day when we should celebrate love, it may be the perfect time to celebrate the different ways in which love exists in our lives. This year, we have seen friendships persist and conquer in the face of distance and struggle - now that’s love worth celebrating!
All the Words Are Yours by Tyler Knott Gregson
This charming book is a collection of haiku about love, that Tyler Knott Gregson wrote daily over the course of six years. The simple, yet poignant poems are artfully presented in Gregson’s signature photographs. Perfect for the hopeless romantic in all of us, these contemporary poems capture the heartfelt, precious moments of everyday life, affection, and self-reflection. A quick read that will leave you feeling inspired and warm inside, this book is a wonderful way to celebrate love - whether that is romantic, self-love, or even an appreciation for life - on Valentine’s Day regardless of your relationship status.