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As a nod to the season of love, we’re posting our favourite 10 love poems. They’re a mixture of ‘between the shadow and the soul’, as our No 10 poet Pablo Neruda so eloquently puts it. This is a collection of the modern and the timeless – celebratory, passionate, hopeful and heartbreaking prose, put simply, love in all its guises.

 

 
No 4 ‘Remembrance’
Maya Angelou

Your hands easy
weight, teasing the bees
hived in my hair, your smile at the
slope of my cheek. On the
occasion, you press
above me, glowing, spouting
readiness, mystery rapes
my reason

When you have withdrawn
your self and the magic, when
only the smell of your
love lingers between
my breasts, then, only
then, can I greedily consume
your presence.

-I love Maya Angelou. She’s the reason why I love poetry so much. I first read her writings as an anxious teen trying to find my place in the world. Her passing is a huge loss. RiP great lady.

From And Still I Rise; Random House, 1978

 

 

No 5 [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
E. E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

–I love E. E. Cummings, but I have to admit Cameron Diaz reciting this in the film that shall not be named almost ruined this poem for me.

 

“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904–1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage.

 

 

No 6 ‘Tamer and Hawk’
Thom Gunn

I thought I was so tough,
But gentled at your hands,
Cannot be quick enough
To fly for you and show
That when I go I go
At your commands.

Even in flight above
I am no longer free:
You seeled me with your love,
I am blind to other birds—
The habit of your words
Has hooded me.

As formerly, I wheel
I hover and I twist,
But only want the feel,
In my possessive thought,
Of catcher and of caught
Upon your wrist.

You but half civilize,
Taming me in this way.
Through having only eyes
For you I fear to lose,
I lose to keep, and choose
Tamer as prey.

-I first came across this poem when I nabbed a battered Faber from my brother’s school duffle bag. I got into huge trouble, but it was worth it. A lifelong love affair with Gunn begun. He wrote this for Mike Kitay, his lifelong partner.

‘Tamer and Hawk’, From Fighting Terms. Copyright © 1954 by Thom Gunn.

 

 

No 7 The Dream Keeper
Langston Hughes

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

From The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, Knopf, 1932.

 

 

No 8 Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: ‘How do I love thee…’
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

 

 

No 9 ‘Before You Came’
Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don’t leave now that you’re here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

From The Rebel’s Silhouette by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 1991 by Agha Shahid Ali.

 

 

No 10 One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
Pablo Neruda

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Pablo Neruda, ‘One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII’, The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (Mark Eisner, ed and trans of this poem).© 2004 City Lights Books.

 

 See also: ‘Letters from the heart – our Top 20 love letters’; and ‘”I am half agony, half hope” … the best love letter in literature
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