Valentine's Day Poetry I Oxford Open Learning

Valentine’s Day Poetry

Valentine’s Day is here again. If you take a stroll around your local supermarket, you’ll likely have your senses assaulted by the plentiful red cards, adorned with kissing couples and bulging red hearts. It’s the season of love, a time when restaurants bump up their menu costs and offer ‘romantic dinners for two’. But if you fancy something a bit more thought-provoking for Valentine’s, how about you dip into some love poetry? Here are some of my favourites:

Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets – and you may well know that this form of poetry is typically associated with love. In Sonnet 147, Shakespeare says that ‘My love is as a fever’ – for the poet, it’s a desperate thing, something that takes over the body and won’t let go, a bit like when you are sick with a nasty bout of the ‘flu, but hopefully nicer. In Sonnet 116, though, Shakespeare is quite metaphorical – here, he believes that love never changes, that it can’t be altered – that ‘it is an ever-fixèd mark’. Now, this sounds great if you are desperately in love with someone – but what if you’re not? What if love isn’t reciprocated? You can delve into Shakespeare’s sonnets further and see if you can find one that you agree with.

Contemporary Valentine’s Poetry

A more modern view of love is seen in Maura Dooley’s Letters from Yorkshire. Here, I really like the way two people have some sort of relationship despite not living near each other – Dooley says how ‘… our souls tap out messages across the icy miles’ which shows that love, in whatever form, can triumph despite physical distance being a barrier. Slightly less positively, Owen Sheers writes, in Winter Swans, about a couple who have grown distant. Here, the swans are used as a symbol of what the couple want to be – and their hands are compared to the swans’ wings, which ‘… swum the distance between us’. This poem, like Dooley’s, makes me think about the power of love and how it can conquer different barriers, no matter what.

You might have heard of Carol Ann Duffy, the former Poet Laureate. In Valentine, my final choice, Duffy looks at an alternative side of love – instead of giving someone a stereotypical ‘love’ item, such as a ‘red rose or satin heart’, she says ‘I give you an onion’ (admittedly, not the most romantic of items!) For me, this poem looks at love in a cynical way, but this makes it all the more thought-provoking and interesting.

So, there you have it – some of my favourite love poems. What are yours? Happy Valentine’s Day!

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