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This week:Edited by: Crys
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My name is Crys and it's my pleasure to be the guest editor for the Romance/Love Newsletter this week! Today's topic: avoiding cliches in love poetry.
I Love You More than Life Itself: Avoiding Cliches in Love Poetry
Take a look at any online writing website and you’re sure to find a ton of love poems. For many, love is a topic best expressed through poetry. Even teenagers lusting after each other write love poems and angst-ridden anti-love poems in their diaries. These poems are often full of clichés about red roses and broken hearts, “forever” and “always.” Although writing these types of poems can be therapeutic at the time, and a great way to bask in the nostalgia of love, the problem is a lot of us never really evolve them into something concrete and worthy of a reader’s eyes.
Let me give you an example:
“I love your more than life itself.
Every day is heaven with you.
I love you more than roses
of red, yellow and blue.
My life will never be the same
since today you called my name.”
There are at least two issues with a poem like this:
A lack of concrete language. Descriptions like “roses of red, yellow and blue” don’t do much to let the reader visualize what the roses look like or why they’re so important to the speaker. Like most poorly-written poetry, all the ideas are abstract and probably won’t conjure up many feelings at all in the reader. Remember, your reader is not inside your head! Even if you were feeling very strong feelings of love when you wrote this poem, nothing about it allows the reader to feel the same way.
Use of clichés. Clichés are bad because they don’t allow the reader to truly experience the speaker’s feelings. “I love you more than life itself” has been said so many times before that it no longer holds any meaning to anyone. A reader feels no sense of the power of the love and can’t relate to the feelings. Like most poorly-written poetry, poems that rely on clichés lack substance and emotion.
To avoid clichés in love poetry, try the following:
Picture the person you’re writing about and write your poem true to their features. For example, instead of having “rosy cheeks” he or she may have “cheeks the color of orchids just after a spring rain.” Close your eyes and imagine what the person looks like, and then try to be as realistic and specific as possible.
Try writing a poem without using the word “heart.” Using “heart” in a love poem is almost always a big read flag that there’s a cliché around. “Beating” hearts, “breaking” hearts, “bleeding” hearts— they’re all cliché.
Embrace concrete details, avoid abstractions. “Every day is heaven with you” gives the reader no idea what makes the days so “heavenly.” It’s also a cliché. Instead, you may want to mention some concrete examples of the little things the person does to make your life better.
Be honest with yourself. Love isn’t all good or all bad. Even the best lovers have faults. Some of the most realistic love poetry recognizes the bad along with the good. Try mentioning a quirky habit or characteristic.
Remember, sometimes we write poems that are best kept to ourselves. If you write a poem to let out your emotions, without regard to things like clichés, metaphors and concrete language, that poem may not be worthy of public consumption. And that’s okay, because the process of writing it has served its purpose.
I leave you with an example of what I consider a great love poem by the legendary E.E. Cummings.
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
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Thanks for picking my story, The 8th of June. I had no idea until reviews started pouring in! Much appreciated :)
You're very welcome!
If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.' I adore this line from 'Wuthering Heights'!
Great newsletter. I got a goo chuckle from the following line:Remember that love (weather it is between a man and a woman, a woman and her cat, or a mother and her daughter) isn’t all about hugs and kisses.<-----the unintentional pairing of love with 'the weather' got me giggling...for a level of love can change as quickly as the weather can! Oh dear...how funny...but true!
Thanks, Fyn ! And I got a good chuckle out of the "goo" in your comment.
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