10 Best Poem Books About Love Update 05/2022

These luscious love poem books are just around the corner, but there’s still time to give your Love one or more.

Good lovers know that true love isn’t made in a day, so these tips are detailed enough to help you build your love all year long or get ready to find and woo someone else in the future.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson

Is Emily Dickinson mysterious? If you think so, then you’ve only just begun to learn about poetry’s mysterious qualities. Her pauses and starts are marked by the many dashes that have been argued about, lengthened or shortened, turned into commas, and back again. Take your time until you meet Sappho.

It could be the ultimate love play if you are patient, a good photographer, and able to live with what is. Because of what has been lost to us over time and in some cases intentionally, there is still so much that hasn’t been said (and undone). There are many things we don’t know about Sappho because of the fragmented nature of the papyri on which her work is found. When we meet her, we know that words have weight, and when we give them to each other, we can imprint our hearts. Sappho’s words have a scent and a directness that is both startling and comforting. Take the first, which is an excerpt from fragment 1, and the second, which is a full reading of fragment 25:
Come to me now: loose me from hard care and all my heart longs to accomplish, accomplish. You be my ally.

Love, Etc.: Poems of Love, Laughter, Longing & Loss, by L.L. Barkat

Sappho may have been the first minimalist because of the way history turned out. The open spaces and what isn’t said invite people to come in and look around. Though, as it turns out, Sappho didn’t mean for this to happen. When she first started writing, she probably added spaces for thought, desire, questioning, and longing. These are the kinds of places we’ve come to expect in poetry: the places where an image draws you in but then requires you to go all the way through an exercise of the imagination and the heart. In Love, Etc., you have the chance to fill in these (though more purposeful) gaps. You can do it in a variety of ways, from playing to thinking to being inquisitive. Enter some of these, for example, and see what comes up next:
Meet Me in a Minimalist Poem, where we can both wear clothes that aren’t too much. Spanish Recipe Let’s make Neruda soup together. You bring the poems, I’ll bring the red poppies and the black seeds.

Let’s eatthe soup together.
You bring an open mouth,
I’ll bring a full spoon

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, Edited by Mark Eisner

The red poppies in “Spanish Recipe” (above) aren’t just a simple picture of love, but they can be read that way for the needs of a lover on any day, even Valentine’s Day. He used his red poppies in one poem to his daughter who was dying:
Only with kisses and red poppies can I love you,

with rain-soaked wreaths,
—excerpt from “Ode with a Lament”
His lilies show up in what feels like a poem of full-blown midlife crisis complete with ashes, wailing, trembling, and terror:
Comes a time I’m tired of my feet and my fingernails
and my hair and my shadow.
Comes a time I’m tired of being a man.
Yet how delicious it would be
to shock a notary with a cut lily
—excerpt from “Walking Around”

His roses appear in what could be understood as a journey towards death as much as a cry of love in life:
Smooth substance, oh drywinged rose,
in my sinking I climb your petals…
come to me, to my measureless dream,
fall into my room where night falls
and incessantly falls like broken water,
and clasp me to your life, to your death…
—excerpt from “Entrance Into Wood”

O: Love Poems from the Ozarks, by Dave Malone

Dave Malone’s new book of love poems came to mind when I talked to my daughter recently. She said that the best love poems are about more than just love, and if they weren’t, she wouldn’t be able to write them. O.

Malone’s poems make you think about what makes a good love poem in a new way. They are about love, but they also talk about other things, like friendship and family. In the Ozarks where he lives, the poetry is linked to the land, weather, culture, and people as much as it is linked to the heart it both comes from and tries to win over.

Thunderboomer
April wind batters Ozark afternoon.
Redbuds bleed purple on the lawn.
Gray gnaws all the way down
to toe-stumbling roots.
Lightning forces squirrels into flight.
The house cries dark with hope
as you rise from the breakfast wasteland
we savored like hipbones.
I follow you into the bedroom
where you curl against me,
the gale smacking then cupping
the front door into giving up.
You are melty as butter.
Clouds blacken outside
like toast.
Civil War
From the grass green comforter
and disheveled white sheets,
you and I hold sentinel for weeks.
The battle of our loving is a landscape
of canon and chipped maps and civil war,
a river of blood and backups—
in the booming release
as gunpowder flames again.

Love Songs, by Sara Teasdale

To surprise your partner, you could try to find a 1917 edition of this book. You can also find it in a modern Kindle format, which doesn’t feel as good in your hands but sounds the same to the ear, unless the printed page really does change how we read.

Dave Malone made this point when he talked about geography in his book, O. You’ll see that Teasdale doesn’t leave this point out either. These poems show that people in the Northeastern United States have a lot of love for the river, the rail, the sea, and the swallow.
Summer Night, Riverside
In the wild, soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom

Sheltered us,

While your kisses and the flowers,

Falling, falling,Tangled my hair. . . .The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky. And now, far off In the fragrant darkness The tree is tremulous again with bloom, For June comes back. To-night what girl Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair This year’s blossoms, clinging in its coils?

The Flight

Look back with longing eyes and know that I will follow,
Lift me up in your love as a light wind lifts a swallow,
Let our flight be far in sun or blowing rain—
But what if I heard my first love calling me again?
Hold me on your heart as the brave sea holds the foam,
Take me far away to the hills that hide your home;
Peace shall thatch the roof and love shall latch the door—
But what if I heard my first love calling me once more?

Love Poems, an Everyman Anthology, compiled by Peter Washington

Because this is an anthology, there isn’t a clear sense of love. In this case, it is not linked to a sense of place or the heart of a single poet. Because this book is about love, it takes you on a tour of it through its topics, like how love is defined and how it is expressed in poetry, how it makes you happy and how it hurts, and so on. If you spend a lot of time with a person’s voice, even if they don’t have the power and allure that comes with that, the poems are still good. Many of them are classics. Note, for example, how great both of these poems are, but how each one moves in a very different direction. This isn’t just because they talk about different types of love, but also because they were written by poets from different cultures, places, and times.

I will leave your white house and tranquil garden.
Let life be empty and bright.
You, and only you, I shall glorify in my poems,
As a woman has never been able to do.
And you remember the beloved
For whose eyes you created this paradise,
But I deal in rare commodities—
I sell your love and tenderness.

—Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Hemschemeyer

Loving in Truth
Loving in truth, and fain in my verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain:
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others’ leaves to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burn’d brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay,
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows,
And others’ fee still seem’d but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my trewand pen, beating myself for spite,
Fool, said my Muse to me, look in thy heart and write.

—Sir Philip Sidney

The Captain’s Verses: Love Poems, Pablo Neruda translated by Donald D. Walsh

Let it be said that this collection of Neruda love poems goes even further than Dave Malone’s O, which doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of love. At times, it can be distressing. Good news: The main tone in this book is natural and full of images. You might even want to eat the poems from a smooth wooden bowl because they’re so good! The Slip If your foot slips again, it will be cut off.

If your hand leads you to another road it will rot away. If you take your life from me you will die even though you live. You will go on dead or shade, walking without me on the earth. The Potter Your whole body has a fullness or a gentleness destined for me.

When I move my hand up I find in each place a dove that was seeking me, as if they had, love, made you of clay for my own potter’s hands.Your knees, your breasts, your waist are missing parts of me like the hollow of a thirsty earth from which they broke off a form, and together we are complete like a single river, like a single grain of sand.

The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Forgiveness, wisdom, truth, and God are all words that can be used to describe these poems. They also have a jewel-like image, so they can be read as both spiritual poems and poems about human love. As in other Eastern poetry, like the ghazal, this verse sometimes refers to the poet, which is used in many different ways. It can be used as a kind of signature, a way to think about yourself, or a way to make a surprise turn to humor. Why All This Talk? Why all this talk of the Beloved, Music and dancing. And Liquid ruby-light we can lift in a cup? Because it is low tide, A very low tide in this age And around most hearts.We are exquisite coral reefs, Dying when exposed to strange Elements. God is the wine-ocean we crave—We miss Flowing in and out of our Pores. Old Sweet Beggar This Path to God Made me such an old sweet beggar. I was starving until one night my love tricked God Himself
To fall into my bowl.Now Hafiz is infinitely rich,But all I ever want to do Is keep emptying out My emerald-filled Pockets Upo This tear-stained World.

The Tale of Genji, Abridged, Murasaki Shikibu, edited and translated by Royall Tyler

It could ruin your love life if you aren’t good at poetry. Even in early Japan, where poetry was a part of courtship, it could at least work. This book, which is a mix of prose and poetry, is about love, poetry, and the value of stories in a culture that thought poetry was the best art. Many lovers have stayed long to read what was written between the lines of these short poems. They invite you to do the same.

Ever since these ears listened to that single cry from the little crane,I have despaired that my boat should be caught among the reeds.
Whenever you come, I shall cut for your fine steed a feast of fresh grass, be it only lower leaves, now the best season is past.

 The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

In a hurry? Short poems for the love of your life Don’t be fooled by the length. Haiku can make you think about things in a new way. These short tanka poems about missing or longed-for love make you think about things in a new way. When looking at Japanese art, it can seem like the art is just about “nature,” but it’s actually a way to show how much you love or want something. Not a bad idea to give this book at the same time as The Tale of Genji (above), which will help you understand it better. Some things, on the other hand, don’t need to be explained to people who know love:

Undisturbed, my garden fills with summer growth—how I wish for one who would push the deep grass aside.
—Izumi Shikibu

When my desiregrows too fierceI wear my bed clothes inside out,dark as the night’s rough husk.
—Ono No Komachi

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