How to Write a Real Love Poem (Without Clichés or Bad Rhymes) (2024)

Table of Contents
Skeletons Skeletons FAQs References

It’s the time of year when my students write love poems. This arrival always surprises me—as spring’s green shocks after months of winter gray—but it shouldn’t. It’s as predictable as the city’s daffodils pushing through the trash to shiver in the wind.

Forget the saccharine of greeting cards and the singsong of Roses are red, violets are blue. Love poems can be moving, beautiful, romantic. Yes, they can express affection for a beloved person, but the poems we need most have skin in the game, and something more profound at stake.

It felt easier to write poems about longing and desire as a young woman, but as the years have passed, I’ve found that, just as sustaining a relationship isn’t always easy, writing love poems about a long marriage can be a challenge. How do you see the person you’ve lived with for decades as if for the first time? How do you make the 10,000th kiss romantic and new?

As much as we may want—or need—to write a love poem, it’s often difficult to find a language that adequately expresses the way we feel. For one thing, it’s hard to strike the right tone. When a poem is flooded with too much emotion, it becomes sentimental, even cheesy; but when a poem risks nothing, it leaves a reader cold.

The best love poems enact the hyperaware state of being alive we feel when we’re in love. Everything is suddenly technicolor: “There are days we live/as if death were nowhere/in the background; from joy/to joy to joy, /from wing to wing,/from blossom to blossom to/impossible blossom” Li-Young Lee writes, capturing love’s fleeting jubilance.

Rita Dove’s “Flirtation” works a similar magic, reminding us that “My heart/is humming a tune/I haven’t heard in years!” The poem encourages us not to miss the world’s deliciousness: “Quiet’s cool flesh—/let’s sniff and eat it./There are ways/to make of the moment/a topiary/so the pleasure’s in/walking through.”

The most powerful love poems, I think, address the fact that we are here now and one day won’t be. Keats’s “Ode on Melancholy” is an exquisite example. Keats knew immense suffering in his day—he lived through his generation’s pandemic and lost his mother and his brother to tuberculosis before succumbing himself at 25. Yet he admonishes the reader not to retreat from life but rather, “when the melancholy fit shall fall…then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose.” His advice? Move through the world embracing its pleasures, hearts open, despite knowing full well we will lose our beloveds, will indeed lose everything, on this whole spinning beautiful earth.

Love poems help us celebrate the gift of being alive even—perhaps especially—during challenging times. The past few years may have left us bruised—but are we done with life? I am still so into it. The buzz of meeting a friend for a drink now that we can once again meet friends for drinks, the student who wants to come by my (in-person!) office hours to “hang out and read poems,” my husband beside me as he sleeps. As I type, he is still here on earth breathing. And I am. “One day, I know, it will be otherwise,” notes the poet Jane Kenyon. But for now.

One afternoon, just when the city seemed to be emerging from the first crush of the pandemic, I was cutting through Central Park after an appointment. The meadow was mostly empty—folks still working from home, tourists hadn’t come back—but giant speakers streamed Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” that iconic love poem to New York City. The few of us out walking that morning were in luck—we could dance a little, maybe, or at least step with a bounce; no one’s looking. Life rebounding in New York City, the full force of it, joy! “People do know they’re alive,” says Alex Dimitrov in Love and Other Poems. The best love poems offer respite and revivify; they remind me that I, too, love being alive.

Soon the lilacs will bloom, but so briefly. Even more reason to seek them out and breathe in deep. And this is what I most want out of love poems: I want to embrace the powerful life force that surges up again and again despite the years passing, despite the heartache and disappointments, the losses and griefs, despite it all.

Ecstasies
By Deborah Landau

In the xyzs of nights and days we stayed
as if the conversation would go on forever,
you, you, you—ample days of you,

your beard accumulating a bit of snow,
the gradual showing of bone, a grizzled diminishment.
The stacked-up winters, each in its place.

In this manner the years.
Spooled out the other side as if in plain view—
a field without you.

Meanwhile we took good care, the greens were organic,
honey sweetened the pot, the membrane between us stayed transparent
and we took seriously our allegiance to dream.

Flesh

By Deborah Landau

It must give pleasure but rarely it rarely does.
But pleasure is so useful when it comes.
Pleasure says this is your sort of place, your year, you live here.
Pleasure’s the perfect swerve. It wins you back.
Pain won’t take you nowhere.
Chocolate on the tongue. Vodka. Velvet. Voila.
A zipper slinking in its silver, its long slide down.

Deborah Landau is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Skeletons (April 2023). Her other books include Soft Targets, The Uses of the Body, The Last Usable Hour, and Orchidelirium, which was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. In 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The New York Times, among others. She is a professor at NYU, where she directs the creative writing program.

Skeletons

How to Write a Real Love Poem (Without Clichés or Bad Rhymes) (1)

How to Write a Real Love Poem (Without Clichés or Bad Rhymes) (2024)

FAQs

How do you write a love poem without being cliche? ›

In your own love poems, rely on depth and specificity. A cliché becomes cliché when it is too universal, describing similar experiences without any emotion or detail. Let your words take the form of the love you're describing, and you won't need clichés to communicate what is your own unalterable voice.

How do you write a real love poem? ›

How to Write a Love Poem
  1. Choose your audience. If you're going to do this proper, you need to pick one person to be your audience. ...
  2. Pick specific details about the person. Okay, you've picked your person. ...
  3. Make personal. Obviously, include those specific details. ...
  4. Be earnest. ...
  5. End with call to action or pronouncement.
Jan 10, 2019

What is the best poem structure for a love poem? ›

Popular choices for love poems include: Sonnet – A style of poetry most associated with Shakespeare. At only 14 lines long, a sonnet is perfect for expressing strong emotions. Acrostic – A poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word (e.g., the name of your beloved).

How do you write a poem without rhyming? ›

Poetry that doesn't rhyme doesn't need to be free verse, though. Many poets keep a structured meter pattern but do not rhyme the lines. This is usually called blank verse. The fixed meter usually means a set number of syllables per line and/or a consistent pattern of stressed syllables.

How do you write a love poem that isn't cheesy? ›

If you dare to try your hand at writing a love poem, I have appointed myself your guide, and here is your instruction manual:
  1. Thou shoulds't avoid archaic language. ...
  2. Be original. ...
  3. Include conflict. ...
  4. Ix-nay on the cliché ...
  5. Make it sexy. ...
  6. Use understatement. ...
  7. Include concrete language and sensory details of everyday life. ...
  8. Go surreal.
Mar 11, 2020

How do you write a bad love poem? ›

How to Write a Bad Poem in 9 Easy Steps
  1. Put yourself in a rhyme trance, focusing only on rhyme. ...
  2. Make sure the rhyme is forced. ...
  3. Use lots of adjectives instead of verbs. ...
  4. Use clichés. ...
  5. Don't take the time to weave-in poetic elements. ...
  6. Make sure the poem never gets to the heart of what it needs to say. ...
  7. A good poem takes time.
Apr 19, 2012

What is a 14 line love poem? ›

Sonnet Structure and Rhyme Scheme

Sonnets must be 14 lines long and they are almost always written in iambic pentameter. This is a meter in which each line of poetry consists of ten syllables.

How can I create my own poem? ›

How to write a poem
  1. 1 Decide what you want to write about. Unless you've been assigned to write a poem about a specific topic, the first step in writing a poem is determining a topic to write about. ...
  2. 2 Determine the best format for your topic. ...
  3. 3 Explore words, rhymes, and rhythm. ...
  4. 4 Write the poem. ...
  5. 5 Edit what you've written.
Jan 6, 2022

How to start a love letter? ›

Write their first name in the greeting so it's personal. Your letter is personal, so refer to the person you love by name. Use a simple salutation, such as “Dear,” “For,” and “To.” Then, include their name or preferred nickname. You might write, “Dear Alexander,” “For Alex,” or “To A.”

How do you write a love poem for beginners? ›

How to write a love poem
  1. Think of a subject. Think about who or what you're writing about, and what emotions you're trying to convey. ...
  2. Decide on a form. You could go traditional and write a sonnet, or you could play with free verse. ...
  3. Choose your words. ...
  4. Consider imagery and symbolism. ...
  5. Be yourself.
Jan 24, 2023

How do you say I love you in a poetic way? ›

One way to poetically express your love for someone is by saying, "My heart sings a symphony, with every beat it whispers your name. I am forever captivated by your love, my dear, and I will never be the same." This evokes the image of a beautiful and harmonious love, filled with passion and devotion.

Which poem is famous for true love? ›

"How Do I Love Thee?,” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This is one of the most famous short love poems in existence, showing that feelings felt in the 1800s are the same as the ones experienced now.

Do poems have periods? ›

Do poems have periods? In poetry, punctuation is used to tell the reader that a pause is needed. They can be placed anywhere in the text, and help increase the reader's ability to effectively read the poem. An end-stopped line is when a line in a stanza ends with a punctuation mark.

What should a poem look like? ›

Typically, poems are formed of stanzas, which are collections of poetic lines. Some stanza types have specific names: quatrains are sets of four lines, couplets are sets of two lines, and octaves are sets of eight. There are also triplets, which are sets of three lines.

Why should poets avoid clichés? ›

Avoid Clichés

A cliché is an expression or idea which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effectiveness in expression, even to the point of being trite or irritating. Repetitive or overuse of clichés show a lack of original thought and can make a writer appear unimaginative and lazy.

What do romantic poems have in common? ›

Romantic poets cultivated individualism, reverence for the natural world, idealism, physical and emotional passion, and an interest in the mystic and supernatural.

What makes a romantic poem a romantic poem? ›

Romantic poetry is poetry written during the Romantic era. It is not necessarily connected to romantic love. Instead, the Romantics were interested in the human experience, transcendent mental states, and intense emotions.

What makes something a romantic poem? ›

Romantic poetry is the poetry of sentiments, emotions and imagination. Romantic poetry opposed the objectivity of neoclassical poetry. Neoclassical poets avoided describing their personal emotions in their poetry, unlike the Romantics..

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jerrold Considine

Last Updated:

Views: 6352

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jerrold Considine

Birthday: 1993-11-03

Address: Suite 447 3463 Marybelle Circles, New Marlin, AL 20765

Phone: +5816749283868

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Air sports, Sand art, Electronics, LARPing, Baseball, Book restoration, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Jerrold Considine, I am a combative, cheerful, encouraging, happy, enthusiastic, funny, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.