Happy Valentine’s Day!
It’s kind of like asking, “What’s a good pick-up line?” Some people will say that there are none. Some will say not using one. Some will say that something funny is best. While it’s not quite the same thing, if you ask, “What makes a good love poem?” you’ll get similar answers (That’s kinda scary, actually…).
So is there any point in asking? Do good love poems really exist?
The Good Love Poem: Fact or Fiction?
Clap if you believe that good love poems exist!
Come on, guys. I know there are some of you out there. Don’t worry – we’ll get to you. If we’re going to talk about perspectives on good love poems, however, we’re going to start with the harshest verdict.
There’s No Such Thing As a Good Love Poem.
What?!!! What about sonnets by Shakespeare? Or Elizabeth Barrett Browning? What about Byron or Keats?
If you like poems at all, you’re not going to be in this category. The same goes, I suppose, for love – but I’m guessing no one’s writing or reading love poems to people who hate love (I could be wrong…).
On the other hand, if your sweetheart falls into this category, maybe a love poem isn’t the right Valentine’s Day gift. That’s like getting a woman flowers when she’d rather have a potted plant. Remember: the best gift reflects the wants and needs of the person you’re giving it to (free life lesson – you can’t say you didn’t know now).
Good Love Poems Are Funny.
I think the people who say this have a prejudice against mushy stuff, especially if they say that love poems are only good if they’re funny. You know the type. People who go for serious stuff, and when they’re looking for a date, they look for people who make them laugh (something that shouldn’t be devalued on the dating scale).
These people might also be slightly on the side of the first category – poetry isn’t really their thing, so they only like it if it’s funny. A sincere sonnet may not be the best Valentine’s Day gift for someone who fits this description.
Now, am I saying that if you’re dating or married to someone like this, you shouldn’t try to show that you care? No. They may be ok with being serious about emotions in other ways. Just don’t write him/her a mushy love poem – go for a limerick instead of a sonnet.
Good Love Poems Come from the Heart.
Is it the gift that counts? That’s what this one feels like. Even the most horribly-written love poem could be considered good (in a way) if the person who wrote it was really trying – if he/she meant what is said.
If you don’t believe me, I’m about to blow your doubt out of the water.
A gruff, manly man who doesn’t know anything about poetry and hates anything to do with writing is married to a woman who loves poetry and yearns for a small sign of her gruff husband’s love for her (not jewelry or furs). How do you think she would feel about a love poem that he wrote for her? Would she think it was a good love poem?
Don’t kid yourself. She’d think it was a great love poem. She’d be so in love with the effort and care that went into writing it that she wouldn’t care if a 5-year-old could write a better poem (artistically speaking).
You, on the other hand, might think the story of it is better than the poem…
Good Love Poems Are Written Well.
Hmmm. That’s not really very specific, is it? Couldn’t you say that about any poem? Come to think of it, what do they mean by “well”? Are they saying that it follows the rules of a specific form or that it uses imagery and makes you feel something? Or are they saying that it advances the art somehow?
To tell you the truth, I don’t think this would be the first answer that most people would give to this question – love is too emotional for most people to give only a logical or rule-based response. The form could be on the list, but I wouldn’t expect it to be the first thought (unless the person is a poet with extremely strong prejudice against poorly written poems…?).
So What Makes a Good Love Poem?!
The logical conclusion is that whether a love poem is good or not depends on who’s judging it.
I know what you’re saying: “Duh! It’s an opinion – of course, it depends on who’s judging it!”
Ok, call me Captain Obvious. But let’s take this a step further and figure out what makes most people decide that a poem is good. If you bothered to read my blather above (and if not, how did you make it this far?), you’d probably guess that it takes a combination of factors for a love poem to be considered good (like most poems).
Well, you’d be right. The most important considerations (IMHO) are…
- Taste in Poetry: Do you like poems? Do you like that type of poem?
- Emotional Stake: Do you know the author? Was it written for you or someone you know? Does the effort or feelings of the person who wrote it matter to you? (This includes the gruff husband example, but some people get emotionally involved in people they’ve never met – often because they admire them or empathize with them.)
- Emotional Response: Does it make you feel something? Is it a strong reaction? Do you like the reaction? (Not “Is it a good reaction?” – people can like poetry that makes them sad or angry even though those are generally considered negative emotions.)
- Quality of Writing: Is it written well enough that the quality of the writing isn’t really noticeable? Is it so poorly written that you can’t stand to look at it? Is it so well written that you are more interested in the writing style than the content? (The last is very uncommon. I would say that when poems are truly well-written, the writing methods and techniques become invisible because the emotional and sensory responses are so strong.)
The answers to these questions determine the quality of the poem. The more positive answers, the better the poem is (in general).
So if you’re trying to write a good love poem, would you want to think about these things in advance? For example, if you’re writing for a specific person, what types of poetry does he/she like? What emotion do you want to express – what do you want to make him/her feel? Can you write well enough to do that?
Actually, I’d probably stop with the first question (what poetry does he/she like). The only time I’d consider the others would be if I was trying to write a universally good love poem.
Or I might just write a poem and see how it goes. What about you?