Love poetry: Does it make you feel sick?

Bryn Porter and Anna Bradley 14 February 2014

Against – Bryn Porter

Roll out the chocolates, bring on the flowers, serenade me from beneath my non-existent balcony if you must; but whatever you do, don’t start cracking out the love poems. And I say this not only as an English student, who just automatically analyses poetry. Love poetry, even well-written love poetry (as in, the stuff that doesn’t begin with ‘roses are red, violets are blue…’) is an attempt to verbalise an individual’s innermost, most intimate feelings – feelings that language cannot possibly convey. This limitation, coupled with the vast libraries of love poetry that have accumulated over the centuries, means that there’s a minefield of cliché-shaped traps just waiting for your love-dazed mind to stumble into. If Shakespeare was tired of eyes being likened to the sun when he wrote Sonnet 130, you can bet that we’re well and truly sick of it now. There’s nothing like purple prose to wring a shudder from a cynic. I’m not damning love poetry in its entirety. But if you really can’t afford that box of heart-shaped truffles, steer clear of the flowery language, you’ll be more likely to earn yourself a cringe than a kiss.

For – Anna Bradley

It can be bad, cheesy and even sickening. Love is impossible to understand and difficult to express, but occasionally people do succeed and manage to create something beautiful. It is human nature to express emotion through art; whether that is music, paint or poetry. Many of the greatest poets wrote love poetry: Petrarch, Shakespeare, Whitman. To say that love poetry is pointless or embarrassing would be to ignore the fact that we still write and read it, long after the original love poets are dead and gone. Humans enjoy love poetry; it is a staple of weddings, almost always appears on Valentine’s Day and is still read by many in the comfort of their own bedrooms. You can overanalyse it, you can laugh it at, but you should never underestimate it.