Arts Muse

Valentine Verses

In honour of Valentine's Day, Martha Hobson shares a collection of poems encompassing different aspects of love.

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Image Credit: ‘The Doctor and The Dad, 2017’

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you love Valentine’s Day or really hate it, here is a collection of poems to cover all bases. Poetry always provides a way of realising you are never alone in a feeling or thought. There is probably a poet out there who eloquently expresses the exact bitterness, passion, love, hate, you feel. Which is really quite nice.

Recreation by Audre Lorde

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42579/recreation

Recreation draws out one playful precursory moment in time. It is erotic and romantic. Lorde writes about her lover’s body “under my hands/ charged and waiting”. The poem is about sex, but also poetry and writing. Even within the title there is this duality, the idea of playing and creating, work and play: “My body/ writes into flesh/the poem/ you make of me.” Audre Lorde, who described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, spoke in poetry. It was her way of communicating both on paper and in conversation. Through Recreation, sex and writing are instinctive, natural, like “paper and pen”. Lorde is creating something. There is productivity in the process of her passion. She is making, but simultaneously, she is being made. They are making love here quite literally, creating an intimacy. “I love you flesh into blossom”, she writes.

Valentine by Tom Pickard

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49214/valentine-56d22b153e7d1

I love this poem for its dreamy, somehow sensical nonsense. “simplicity/ say sleep// or/shall we/ shower// have an apple.” The soft alliteration brings you into sleep. The form follows half-conscious thoughts: trying to read someone’s mind, trying to read your own mind, that liminal what-next moment. “shall I move?/ do you dream?”. The narrator’s mind is jumping from idea to idea, in and out of where he is and what he’s thinking. However, although disjointed, the poem doesn’t feel choppy. It’s simple, easy, soft. And the best bit: “melt this”.

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator by Anne Sexton

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42574/the-ballad-of-the-lonely-masturbator

Sexton grapples with themes of jealousy, loneliness and sex. I would like it to be more of a female empowerment, self-love, type of poem, but Sexton is quite clearly bitter. “They are eating each other. They are overfed.” The sinful and animalistic greed of sex is not portrayed with some authentic condemnation, but rather a jealous yearning. She writes with earnest humiliation, thinking of her ex-lover moving on, and meanwhile ‘marrying’ her bed. Sexton struggles with the familiar paradox between hating something and yet wanting it at the same time.

[You fit into me] by Margaret Atwood

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/151653/you-fit-into-me

Ouch. I don’t know what happened to Margaret Atwood but maybe your Valentine’s Day feels like this too. In just two sentences, Atwood manages to encapsulate a lot of the more hateful perceptions of love. The poem starts sweet, “you fit into me/ like a hook into an eye”, a hook and an eye being a fastening for clothes, clasped together, joined. And then very quickly takes a violent and painful turn. Is this what she thinks of love? Maybe she is talking about the pain of falling out of love, or the façade of love, or heterosexuality being underpinned by something darker and more violent (a big feminist, Atwood probably has some kind of fuck-the-patriarchy type message).  Regardless, she is saying- love is not always sweet, sometimes it’s  “a fish hook/ an open eye”.

This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56159/this-is-just-to-say

This is probably my favourite poem. It’s not a typical love poem, but it feels to me very much about love. I don’t know if it’s the fruit, the apology, the note-like form. This is Just to Say alludes to a very specific intimacy. A domestic sort of intimacy, between spouses, lovers, family or close friends. Like: you are so annoying, I can’t believe you stole my plums, but I still love you.

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