[Originally Run on The Next Best Book Blog]
In no particular order, read these with someone you love. Some are sexy, a little racy, while others are quiet and meditative. All of them will get you thinking a little more about that person you’ve given your heart to.
“Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois” from Harlot by Jill Alexander Essbaum
The book is called Harlot and there is a woman hugging a penis on the cover. Nothing could say Valentine’s Day more. This particular poem is full of great rhymes, word play, a killer use of form, plus, as the speaker says “we teeter on the precipice of this suggestions, the three of us.”
“to love” from Shattered Sonnets Love Cards and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities by Olena Kalytiak Davis
Davis’s “to love” reads like both a breathless declaration of love and a well thought out letter trying to convince another of love. The poem mixes progressive tense verbs and mashed together meanings with meticulous line breaks that leave many things open to interpretation. No matter how you read it though, the speaker is clearly in love.
“Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” from Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life by Barbara Louise Ungar
There is a lot of tongue in cheek humor in “Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life,” which Ungar uses to make her message of love, unrealistic expectations and loss so palatable. Instead of an over effusion of romance “Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” literally boils the whole thing down to a few simple steps, and the only ingredient is “Find the right person.”
“Rise” from Interior with Sudden Joy by Brenda Shaughnessy
Like Barbara Louise Ungar’s “Recipe for a Long, Happy Marriage” Shaughnessy mixes food and love in “Rise.” Instead of a simple formula this poem is laced with double or triple meanings and dark sexy word choices. Depending on your mood you either leave this poem a little turned on, or considering death.
“Love at First Sight” from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska
“Love at First Sight” is a beautiful, thoughtful, made-for-TV romance of a poem. Szymborska mediates on the loveliness of chance in life and how the most unsuspecting moments may be the ones that change your life; “Every beginning, after all,/is nothing but a sequel,/and the book of events/is always open in the middle.”
“Letter to a Lover” from Come on All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder
“Letter to a Lover,” which appears in Matthew Zapruder’s third collection, Come on All Your Ghosts, illustrates love in every life instead of grand sweeping moments. The speaker opens by saying “Today I am going to pick you up at the beige airport” and then proceeds to list the day-to-day things he is excited to share with the girl. Most love happens around the mundane things, like airport pick ups, but there is something heartwarming in the careful way Zapruder makes these moments shine.
“Ignatz in August” from Ignatz by Monica Youn
Monica Youn’s “Ignatz in August,” which is one of a series of poems inspired by the character Ignatz Mouse from the Krazy Kat cartoons, doesn’t sound like something that would initially spark romance or ove, but this short poem is surprising. Consisting of only six lines, this visceral piece begs to be read between people in love, opening with “you arch/up off me.”
“Torch Song for Ophelia” from Torch Song Tango Choir by Julie Sophia Paegle
For the reader in search of a smooth talking man, or who for the woman is just got dumped, “Torch Song for Ophelia” is a Valentine’s Day anthem. “Forget/about Hamlet./He required too much: air,/ Purgatory, his harpy/whore,/ revenge,/stories” Paegle writes, and then her speaker sweeps Ophelia off of her feet with profusions of love, sex and appreciation.
“places of happiness” from Forever Will End on Thursday by Nic Sebastian
Despite some tension between the two speakers in “places of happiness,” by Nic Sebsastian, this poem shows two people who really do care about each other. They travel together, ask about the other’s work, and in the end “on the road to Chittagong/you covered me with your jacket and held/my hand.” This simple gesture, among the unique locations and vivid details, is what makes this poem, and most of the book, special.
“The Knowing” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds
That post coitus snuggle moment, when you (hopefully) amaze at the person you are with is touchingly described in Sharon Olds “The Knowing.” This speaker is in love, in lust, and in like with the person she has just slept with and gladly shares this with the reader in heartfelt detail. At the end of the poem Olds expresses the sentiment I hope we can all share on Valentine’s day: “I am so lucky that I can know him.”
If your love is prose person, not poetry person, read the rest of our suggestions on The Next Best Book Blog in our post “Too Woo or Not to Woo – Love in Literature: Part the Third.”