Learn how to write a Valentine’s Day love poem with the help of Matthew Wimberley

For those celebrating Valentine’s Day, there are few gifts more classic than chocolate, flowers, or maybe even a nice dinner, but did you ever consider topping it all off with a poem you wrote yourself? Sure, the task can seem daunting, but with some help and a few tips from award-winning poet and assistant professor of English Matthew Wimberley, you’ll be writing your way into the heart of almost anyone (even if that “someone” is your pup…sorry, no English-to-dog translation tips here).


The love poem. Perhaps more than any other style of poetry, the love poem is most difficult to get right. To make our innermost feelings visible, to undo the silence of our vulnerability, to attempt a translation of the heart and then to share that with another is a test of the self with a little hubris thrown in.

There are many types of love, and the range is broad for the genre of poetry.

Li-Young Lee says that “all poems are love poems” and so, while I mostly work in the style of the elegy, I do have some hopefully useful thoughts for anyone attempting to write a poem for someone they care about, someone they love.

To start, it’s hard to write a love poem and it should be. This is also why this poetry is often so prized and welcomed by the recipient. It’s not a slapped together Hallmark card, but instead a triumph of work and reflection.

This is where to begin, with an image—a memory, some small thing. Love isn’t grand gestures, mostly these are few and far between. The love poem can begin with a totally mundane moment in a day, and this is probably for the better to avoid any saccharine, sappy drivel.

From there, you just follow the pen.

If I were going to write a love poem (admittedly something about a holiday even as performative as Valentine’s Day always makes me attempt one) I would start by reading a few poems already classified in the style.

In the English language you’ve probably encountered Shakespeare’s Sonnets. If you speak Spanish you’ve undoubtedly read Pablo Neruda’s Vienta Poems de Amor y Una Canción Desesperada.

The thing is, every culture has poetry, and everyone loves. The collision of the two is inevitable and therefore you don’t need to look far for inspiration. Sometimes I return to a line by Stanley Kunitz, “Burn with me! / The only music is time, / the only dance is love.” and this sets me in the right direction.

Want some further inspiration? Check out:

Again, no matter what you write, the old cliché “it’s the thought that counts” is true
. There are no failures in matters of the heart when we break out of our silence. Maybe a few clunky lines, but no failures.

Want to learn more about Wimberley and his work?

Check out Wimberley’s debut book of poetry during a reading event Thursday, Feb. 13, hosted by the Stephenson Center for Appalachia.
Learn more about the event here

By Matthew WimberleyFebruary 10, 2020
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