At first glance, it seems that poetry, as a literary form, has been left in the shadows of the 21st century; the works of poets occupy such a shy and unobtrusive space in bookshops.
But not so at Pointe-Claire Library, where a rapid search for “poems” yielded 777 hits! And not so online, where many collections of classic works of poetry are accessible to everyone.
I wonder if the most quotable, well-known love poem isn’t Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet #43
(from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1850), which begins:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach,
when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace (…)
(Read the complete poem here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172998)
But Elizabeth Barrett and her husband, Robert Browning left behind a far richer legacy, which includes a trove of love letters that they began exchanging during the years of their courtship (starting in 1845). This collection, too, is available online, and offers us a glimpse into the intimate, though linguistically rich and formal exchanges between famous lovers.
and also: http://classiclit.about.com/od/loveliterature/a/aa_browning.htm , for a bit of background information.
In fact, there are scores of astonishingly beautiful love poems floating sheltered within our collective memory and preserved in books and online, and as I tried to draw a few from my mind, it occurred to me that the poems that have imprinted themselves in my heart are those that I have heard spoken aloud. There are many, among them John Keats himself, who would argue that poetry should not be experienced in any other way, and I’m tempted to agree. That is how I first discovered Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 :
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. 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;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Only in spoken words is the rhythm and flow of the words revealed, and the spell of the poem woven.
Shakespeare’s complete sonnets can be found at: http://www.web-l.com/shakespeare/poetry/sonnets/
A brave group of young poets today have taken the oral poetic tradition very much to heart, forming a community of Spoken Word writers. One of Canada’s most successful Spoken Word performers is Shane Koyczan, http://www.shanekoyczan.com/, who performed during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympic Games. Koyczan is a master of rhyme and rhythm, playing with the ebb and flow of his brilliantly composed cascades of words, leaving his audiences laughing, crying, silenced.
See a few of his performances here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/08/8-beautiful-and-heartbreaking-poems-from-shane-koyczan/
On this February 14th, lose yourself in poetry. If you don’t have a favourite collection at hand, you can start here, with this compilation of the 100 Best Love Poems: http://100.best-poems.net/100-best-love-poems.html
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”