We’ll make a Romantic out of you yet…♥
Still thinking of what to write in your flower card during Valentine’s Day? Or perhaps you want to really wow your loved one with a romantic poem written by you? Stop racking your brain right now and let’s save you some time.
Professional poet and member of the UK Poetry Society, Julia Bird, is working with Interflora, the world’s largest floristry network, on a new campaign encouraging people to put their romantic thoughts into words this Valentine’s Day. According to research*, this is something more than half the nation struggles with, and together, they want to change this.
So listen up and take notes…
1) Read first, then write
Poets have wooed their lovers in verse for centuries, poetry is a continuous conversation that you can join. Read a few of the best love poets for inspiration, and see what classic works you can adapt or imitate for your own romantic purposes. Here’s a list of the UKs’ favourite love poems to get you started.
2) Alternatively, you could always quote someone else’s poem on your flower card – www.poetryarchive.org (UK) and www.poetryfoundation.org (USA) contain thousands of poems celebrating every sort of idea and experience, and you can search by keywords to find something particularly meaningful to you and your lover.
3) Remember, specificity is key
If you’re going to write a poem about your partner, don’t try and encompass the whole sweep of your relationship – focus on the particular detail: the weather on day you met, the charming asymmetry of her freckles, the way he cooks shepherd’s pie. There’s nothing so disarming as the knowledge that you are deeply known and remembered by another.
4) Equally exciting, however, is mystery
Perhaps you’re sending your flowers anonymously. In that case, concentrate on describing your own feelings – are you yearning or burning, sighing or lying? The person on the receiving end of the dozen stargazers will be dizzy with curiosity about who they’ve inspired to such levels of emotion.
5) Love poetry is driven by rhythm
The pattern of words that makes readers think of heart beats or dance steps. Are you going to fit lots of multisyllabic Latinate words into your lines for a delicate and precise sound; or will you go for the pounding rhythms of shorter Anglo Saxon words? A rose is the same thing as a Rosa berberifolia – but which one is more like your particular crush?
6) If you’re using rhyme
Look beyond the obvious full rhymes (love / dove, heart / apart, moon / June) that have been used many times before. Part rhymes (love / save, heart / hurt, moon / mine) are less predictable, therefore more intriguing.
7) Leave behind the language of the past
Some poetic phrases are woven so deeply into our culture (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ / ‘What light through yonder window breaks’) that we reach instinctively for the archaic poem-sounding words to add gravitas to our writing. Let go of ‘thee’ and ‘yonder’, and instead find the poetry in the fads and fashions of today’s dictionaries.
8) Your innate creativity
Your relationship, fuelled by its particular mix of emotion, memory, desire, laughter and regret. The passion that you have for her, the lust that you have for him. Find a place for it all in your writing. Let your poem bloom.
And that’s not all. She may not be 007, but she certainly knows her beans when it comes to poetry, so when Julia says she’s cracked the code for writing the perfect poem, we believe her. The Interflora poetry expert has analysed the nation’s favourite 10 love poems to develop a ‘formula’ for the perfect romantic verse. According to Julia, it is as simple as: x (p + b + c + o).
The formula, explained:
P = Pattern. All ten of the nation’s favourite love poems are boldly metrical and have strong rhyming patterns. Rhythm is important to the love poet – it puts the reader in mind of heartbeats and dance steps. A rhyming couplet asserts a truth like no other figure of speech. Pepper your poems with pattern.
B = Brevity. Many of the poems on the lists are sonnets – from Shakespeare’s ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’ to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’. Your flower card provides even less space than the 14 lines of a sonnet, so you’ll want to make your point in a very few words – those words that your lover can recite by heart for the rest their life.
C = Comparison. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ asks Shakespeare, and Robert Burns answers ‘O my Luve’s like a red, red rose’. The desire to compare and describe the love is a common thread through love poetry. What’s your love like? Why, s/he’s like this …
O = Obstacle. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ says Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many of the nation’s favourite love poems examine the difficulties inherent in a love affair, from Yeats’ poverty in ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ to Andrew Marvell lacking world enough and time in ‘To His Coy Mistress’ to Christina Rossetti’s imminent death in ‘Remember’. What obstacle will you overcome in order to impress your soulmate?
X = Mystery Quality. Finally, multiply all these necessary ingredients of a love poem by the passion, creativity and detail that only you can provide when you’re contemplating your particular best beloved. X also symbolises a kiss, and you’ll want to finish your message with any amount of those.
Find more tips and inspiration, including a guide to romantic etiquette and an eBook of romantic verses here.