From the ruminations of Rumi to the anguish of Bukowski, poets have, for centuries, given us the language of love. And so, what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, than by reading some of the best love poetry that literature today has to offer? Travelling across the world, going over a range of distinct, profound and intelligent discourses on love, we have curated a list of canonically credited luminaries in the realm of lyric and romance.
If, Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho
“Eros shook my mind like a mountain wind falling on oak trees.”
One of the greatest lyric poets of Ancient Greece, ‘The Poetess’ or the ‘Tenth Muse’, Sappho, of Lesbos is still celebrated as a luminary in the tradition of love lyric writing. While we only have one complete surviving poem from the nine books attributed to her, the rest are preserved as ‘fragments–’ furnished with appropriately left brackets and blank spaces that leave much for the reader’s imagination/interpretation. Known for her witty and erotic explorations of desire, ardent love and the divine beauty of both young men and women, Sappho’s “Fragments” showcase a liberated, queer and sensual literature with a dexterity that allows for an enriching poetics of love.
Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy
“Not a red rose or a satin heart. I give you an onion.”
A varied selection of love poetry, ranging from adulterous seductions to the beauty of everyday expressions of love, capturing the real place of boredom, devotion and grief in all manner of love affairs, Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy’s collection displays not only her talent as one of the most important poets of our time, but also gives proof to the potential of language in capturing the most powerful of ephemeral stirrings.
The Love Poems of Rumi
“I am only the house of your beloved, not the beloved herself: true love is for the treasure, not for the coffer that contains it.”
Inventor of whirling dervishes, the divine scribe of the human heart, an exalted voice in plain clothes, great 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Rumi, is perhaps the flagbearer of lyrics written for the beloved. To read him is to be profoundly enraptured.
Love: Poems by Pablo Neruda
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I do not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”
Sensual, devotional and scandalous, Pablo Neruda’s love poems have always occupied that sanctified-desanctified space allotted to love poetry that doesn’t shy away from the physicality of longing and desire. Without ornament and fluff, Neura’s lines are those embodied evocative movements that wreck one with the tempests that plague all, love-lorn and love-sick alike.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken”
A collection of 154 sonnets that form a comprehensive and complete text in themselves, Syhakespeare’s collection of sonnets are more than the average poetry on love and worshiping desire. The Great Bard of English Literature, making keen variations within the tradition of sonnets, offers an intelligent, often philosophical, text whose interests range from the passing of time and the ephemerality of beauty to the role of jealousy and power within romance, and much more. Larger than poetry about loving, this collection is a dissective analysis of the many dynamics, desires and circumstances that go on to shape our experience within love-relationships.
Bright Star by John Keats
“And we will shade
Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy,
My happy love will overwing all bounds!
O let me melt into thee! ”
A collection of selected letters and poems, written by a tender Keats to his love Fanny Brawne, narrates the story of one of the most beautiful doomed romantic relationships in literary history. Composed of liquid silver, formidable vigor, sensuous language and profound emotion, this collection boasts of the best of the great Romantic and his vivid poetry.
Love is a Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski
“I drive around the streets
an inch away from weeping,
ashamed of my sentimentality and
A cannon of Bukowski’s best, containing the profundity of a man who, as the title suggests, does not mince his words, “Love is a Dog From Hell” contains the poet’s viscous, savage and vulnerable introspections on the nature of love and its violent limits. An era-defining voice and a truly idiosyncratic author, Bukowski is an unwitting but venerable saint on matters relating to the brutal experience of existing and feeling.
Pick up a collection of love poetry from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.