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Four ways to craft a love poem like a bard


1. Begin each stanza by naming the muse’s ugliest features or bad habits.

Every girl’s dream is to have her faults highlighted in a poem dedicated to her for Valentine’s Day. Guys might like their ego punctured as well, so make sure to mention his insecurities.

Pablo Neruda did an exquisite job in his sonnet, “My ugly love…”, pinpointing every aspect of his lover that irks him. He gets straight to the point by listing features in this fashion: “Ugly: not even the sea contains things like your toenails.” With every right to be creative, it’s advised that you offset the negative statements with positive ones such as “Beauty: flower by flower, star by star, wave by wave, /Love, I’ve made an inventory of your body.”

2. Be brutally honest about the poem’s intention.

Sometimes a love poem isn’t meant for your current crush, best friend, or lover.  Did you have your heart broken recently, or perhaps even on Valentine’s Day last year? Try a salty love poem complete with implicit insults for your ex.  

Carol Ann Duffy’s “Valentine” is the perfect example of a love poem without the frills and rhymes.  Experiment with an opening line like hers: “Not a red rose or a satin heart” or even better, “Not a cute card or a kissogram.” Be raw and open, until you make the perpetrator’s “reflection a wobbling photo of grief.”  

3. Compare your love to a blood-sucking insect.

If you listen to any song mentioning the ever-present subject of love, you’ll realize that it’s almost always associated with basic things like hearts, keys, and chains. I can guarantee that you’ve never told a person you care for that your love is like the blood sucked by a flea. But it’s never too late to start!  

John Donne tries to persuade his lover that because “It sucked [him] first, and now sucks [her],/ And in this flea their two bloods mingled be,” they should be together. While he seems to have copyrighted the flea, there’s still the lovely malaria-carrying mosquito, the hopping deer tick, and the slimy swamp leech.  

4. Compare your SO to an “alternative” animal.

It’s considered a compliment to have the qualities of beautiful butterfly, a wise owl, or a fierce tiger. Have you ever toyed around with the idea of of your muse’s negative spirit animal? Most people also possess some pretty unattractive traits when they’re tired, hungry, or cranky.  

Seamus Heaney took to describing his wife with the characteristics of a skunk, an animal most find pretty repulsive on account of its smell. It’s interesting that he sees her as “the intent and glamorous,/ Ordinary, mysterious skunk.” Even with an animal as disgusting as a skunk, Heaney actually finds some positive descriptors. You might realize your significant other’s not-so-appealing traits are exactly what you love most about them.  

Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’

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Hi! I've always been a big believer that anything can make for an interesting story. I've written about everything from my love of ironing clothes to the Stanford hookup culture. If you have an idea for a story, I'd love to chat with you about it!