Love is one of the most common themes you see in poetry.
This can make writing a perfect love poem for the first time challenging. Especially, if you want to avoid cliches and dial-down on sappiness.
For millennia, people have attempted to put into words the intense emotions that accompany the experience of being in love.
So how do you write a love poem that says more than I love you?
When you think about love poems you might remember sappy cliches of ‘roses are red, violets are blue’.
But love poems are versatile because love evokes all kinds of strong emotions.
Love can feel good, and sometimes love can hurt. It can bring you healing or despair, joy or sadness, peace or restlessness.
This array of powerful feelings sometimes struggles to find a verbal outlet. It often may seem that there are not enough words in the world to describe how much you love someone.
The central question becomes but how do you express love in words?
There are ways to reinvent love in poetry using unorthodox imagery, creative writing techniques, and expanding your own perspective of love.
Here are 4 tips to guide you in how to write your first love poem.
The key to the perfect love poem is vulnerability.
The best love poems aren’t about a clever rhyme scheme, sappy metaphors, or overused romantic expressions of love.
A true love poem is honest.
Although it can help to read your favorite love poems to get the gist of strong imagery, use of alliteration, and hyperboles, your love poem will always require sincerity to feel complete.
Don’t be afraid to be you, to say how you truly feel, whether it rhymes or not.
And if uncovering your feelings becomes challenging, here are some prompts to get your first love poem started.
Prompt #1: Think about a past memory with your loved one that brings you joy, makes you smile, maybe even the time when you first realized you were in love with them.
Prompt #2: Fantasize about your future together, what do you picture your future to be like?
Prompt #3: How has your loved one helped you heal old wounds or made you learn more about yourself, about love, about relationships?
Prompt #4: What is something that your loved one does, a habit, a gesture, a behavior, that you love but they might not even realize they do it?
Prompt #5: What are 4 reasons you would miss them if they couldn’t be in your life anymore?
Prompt #6: Think about your pastimes, the hobbies that you share with your partner. Reflect on how that deepens your connection, and why you couldn’t imagine spending that time with anyone else.
Movies often showcase love as that grand gesture, those expensive gifts, the unthinkable sacrifice that can only be pertained to helpless love.
But the big acts are not the driving force behind love. There are a million little things that make us fall in love with our person in the first place.
A beautiful love poem pays attention to the little things that go unnoticed. Like your partner’s clumsiness, the way they scrunch up their nose when confused, how they sometimes sigh in their sleep…
Or how they would leave a cute note for you when they pop out to the store, how they always laugh the loudest at your jokes, and how they know exactly when you need your own space.
When you write a love poem, the basic idea is to give center stage to those seemingly insignificant details.
“Of many reasons I love you here is one
the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright
so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal…”
- By Craig Arnold “Bird-Understander”
Love brings up strong emotions. Even when you focus on the small details.
So, when describing how your loved one makes you feel -- exaggeration is a technique to apply, although take care of how generously.
Here are 2 examples of famous love poems that lean into hyperbole to translate feelings into words:
“One thousand stampeding bison thundering across the plains
Couldn't drown out the sound of my heart beating for you”
- By Kelly Roper “My Heart Beats for You”
"I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.”
- By W.H. Auden “As I Walked Out One Evening”
Some other examples of helpful hyperboles: “My heart could explode”, “I’d walk a million miles just to see you”, “Forever is too short for me and you”.
Outrageous comparisons are, not only poetic, but they help make sense of intense emotions.
Many people have written about love. So it is easy to fall into the temptation trap of cliches.
Whether consciously or not, cliches about love are something we’re accustomed to.
The familiar tune of buzzwords like: ‘roses are red, to the moon and back, head over heels in love, love is blind...’ could be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of love.
Since these images and metaphors are so overused, it is best to take a different approach when writing your love poem.
Not to say you cannot use those concepts or words in your poem. You can always refresh the existing conventions:
The blanket of rose petals that cover you at night… the clicking of the heels send my head spinning… I love the infinite galaxies within you…
Sometimes, even cliches can inspire.
Another easy way to avoid cliches when you write a love poem is to seek out unorthodox imagery.
When you look at love through an unexpected lens, it gives your piece of writing a sense of exclusivity.
The love poem becomes something that can be uniquely shared between you and your loved one.
One way you can start to create unconventional representations of love in your poem is to play word association.
If you are a visual person, a metaphor map can help you. A metaphor map is just like a mind map to which you add your associated words.
Imagine you have the sentence: “Without you my world is empty”. But you want to replace the word ‘empty’ with better imagery.
You can end up with something like:
“Without you, my world a bare desert,
A lifeless hollow it becomes…”
The kind of words you associate together also adds a personal element. Because the words you choose highlight the inner workings of your heart and mind.
As a result, making the poem a truly heartfelt product, unique to you.
A love poem gains power when it has direction.
Knowing who you are writing about, not only, gives your poem structure but also makes it easier for you to write.
When you start to think of a specific person, naturally, feelings, memories, and thoughts will start to come up. And this can give you a lot of ideas for your love poem.
Writing a love poem doesn’t have to be reserved only for your romantic partner. In fact, the love in friendships and family bonds is often understated.
So, when it comes to choosing your muse, your inspiration for your love poem, expand your choices.
You can address your poem to a romantic partner, to a friend/s, or to a family member.
You can even write a love poem to yourself, as a form of self-love. Or you can write to love itself.
“When love leaves
Ask her to leave the door open behind her [...]
Whisper: “thank you
- for stopping by”
- By Sarah Kay + Phil Kaye “When Love Arrives”
This poem personifies the abstract concept of love without necessarily addressing it to a particular individual. It brings the focus to the poets’ understanding and experiences of love instead.
You are not limited in structure when it comes to writing a romantic poem.
You can choose a 14-line poem known as a sonnet, where you write three quatrains and a couplet. Sonnets were favored by poets like Shakespeare and Neruda.
Or compline a poem just using quatrains, like William Butler Yeats in “When you are old”.
There are also 39-line sestinas, which use more complex six-line stanzas and start each new stanza with the last word from the previous line. See Elizabeth Bishop's "A Miracle for Breakfast".
Or lean into open form poetry (translation: free verse), like Maya Angelou, Rupi Kaur, or Margaret Atwood.
To keep it short and sweet you may want to choose a haiku or a simple quatrain.
Whatever structure you choose, remember, a true love poem should take on the shape of your heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adventurous by nature, Valery has been a world wanderer for many years.
Her journey started in Russia, transitioned to the UK, and now she discovers a sense of home in nations all around the world.
She moves beyond borders - learning, participating, finding inspiration and familiarity in diverse cultures she’s had the joy of living in.
When not chasing adventures and out-of-the-comfort zone experiences, she explores the wonders of language and its impact on the self, the world, and interpersonal communication.
She never ceases to seek opportunities for self-development and to contribute to a brighter future for the world around her.
You can discover some of her experiences on https://medium.com/@valeryvoyager