Poetry is an often intensely intimate art form. Throughout history, love poems have been shared between spouses, friends and lovers. Kings and queens, and their favourites. Between author and reader.
Whether discovered, or deliberately published, when we’re allowed to enjoy these expressions of love, we often find our own intimate feelings mapped in the thoughts of others. In free flowing expressions, poetry may be the best outlet for articulating the inner self – our meandering emotions, and our unconscious desires.
It can weave epic tales of romantic melancholy, lost love. And happiness – both fleeting and enduring. But it can also be direct, and in this mode you’ll find unfettered excitement and sincerity, in short passages about Wild Nights and the simple act of sharing a coke. It has also allowed queer writers to express their intimate feelings at times when friends, families and their societies do not accept them.
The reason that themes of love, romance and relationships are so central to literature is because they are such a resonant part of our own lives. The emotional highs and lows that come with acceptance and rejection, and the contentment and beauty in love continuing into old age. Poetry can convey this complexity of emotion in a way that simple prose or spoken language often cannot.
The rich tradition of love poems continues today – here are some of the best ever written.