How to write a love poem


If you ever need a last-minute Valentine’s gift that will be treasured forever, costs nothing, and can fit any recipient, look no further than the love poem. 

Why write a love poem? Imagine: you and your beloved dying of old age in each other’s arms. The love poem outlasts both of you. Your granddaughter finds it somewhere in the back of a jewellery box, and frames it over her kitchen counter. Imagine, alternatively: you break up, but your beloved never gets over the love poem. It moves from city to city, in the dust jacket of coffee-table books, or filed between the tax-returns. At the end of a bitter divorce to another, they happen upon the love poem you gave them decades ago, and are filled with a deep sense of regret. It’s a great outcome for you in either scenario!

Step Zero: Actually be in love. While I’m sure it’s possible to write a half-decent love poem without actually being in love, I believe it to be morally reprehensible. Your love doesn’t need to be romantic, of course, but it should still be there. You can write love poems to things and places, not just people. Is there a special supermarket or front lawn in your life? Make them feel loved this season with a poem. 

Step Zero Point Five: Read some love poems. Check out, which has a bunch of poetry pre-arranged into collections like “classic love,” “queer love,” “anti-love,” “teen love,” and “sad love.” Figure out what you love and what you hate as a reader. Maybe get your beloved’s opinion on some poems to see what kind of stuff they’re into. 

Finally, Step One: Brainstorm. I use the X-page to brainstorm, an exercise created by cartoonist Lynda Barry. This will take you about 20 minutes. Here’s how it works, more or less:

Begin by drawing a spiral in the centre of a page. Focus on making it as tight as possible. As you go around the spiral, slowly focus on different parts of your body, starting at the top of your head, and moving towards your toes. You can do this in silence, or listen to a poem or song.

Next, draw a large X on the page. The point of the X is to ‘ruin’ the page, so your brain understands it’s a page you can make mistakes on. You should feel free to take risks. Say out loud: “I feel free to take risks on this page.”

With a clear mind and a ruined page, you’re going to write as many details about this person as you can. They should be specific, and they can sound goofy. You can always get rid of a bad idea later. If you find yourself focusing on a specific memory or aspect, let yourself get lost in that, and then come back. 

Step Two: Sort through your brainstorm. Circle, highlight, or list on a clean sheet your favourite details from the brainstorm. Notice which details naturally fit together, or if any words fit together with the sounds they make. 

Now you have a page full of pieces gathered from which you can write poetry. There might already be some lines jumping out at you; jot these down. Go make yourself a little meal, and then come back to it.

Step Three: Actually write the poem. There are an infinite number of ‘ways’ to write a poem. 

I like growing out a poem from just one good line, fitting more words together to make a second that sounds alright with the first, and so on until I have a poem in front of me. I’ll say the words out loud, pacing, or clapping to keep my words in a rhythm, and then jotting down whatever words sound nice together. Sometimes you’ll have a great idea that takes you a long time to fit. Just have faith it’ll come. 

A lot of people are scared of writing poetry that rhymes, because it feels too sing-songy, too try-hard, too old-fashioned, or overly formal; but a rhyme scheme might be the kind of restriction that sets you in the right direction, especially if you feel overwhelmed by the open-endedness of this endeavour. A sonnet has just enough rules to be written somewhat algorithmically if you’re really stuck. 

Because your poem is probably shorter than what you’re used to writing, the editing is probably going to be a lot more iterative and baked into the writing. Changing just one word can affect the way the whole poem sounds. Give yourself lots of time to tinker. 

Step Four: Deliver the poem. While you should definitely recite your poem aloud, I think there’s something romantic about giving someone a physical, pen-and-paper copy. Plus, you can get fancy with adding colour and drawings. Real romantics will perfume their letters. 

Best of luck in writing your love poem! Remember, regardless of the recipient’s response, being grateful and present to the love you feel is always honourable. Any romantic consequence incurred is just a happy accident.