Say No to “Love” in Love Poems

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Novice writers take note—the word “love” can lessen the power of poems.

With Valentine’s Day looming on the calendar, lovers should be aware of what published poets have known for centuries; that good love poems don’t need to say the word “love” in order for them to be good. Instead, good love poems should concentrate on revealing the results of the emotion.

Dorothy K. Fletcher, veteran creative writing teacher and author of the book Zen Fishing and Other Southern Pleasures (Ocean Publishing) said, “I always tell my students that if they are serious poets and they want to honor someone with a love poem, then the emotion should be demonstrated with actions, events or scenes. The word of that emotion need never be mentioned, and it should be obvious to the reader that love is present.”

Fletcher, along with fellow poet Kay Day, the author of A Poetry Break (Ocean Publishing), will be running a “Love Poem Clinic” at the Lakewood Starbucks Coffee Shop in Jacksonville, Florida, on February 12 from 1 – 3 p.m.

Fletcher has been a language arts teacher in the Duval County School System for 34 years and a poet for even longer. Kay Day has been a professional free-lance writer and poet for over 25 years. Together these writers reasoned that a writers’ clinic was a worthy cause and certainly a “fun” gig for them.

“Not only do we expect to enjoy our time at Starbucks, but we also want to do our bit to save lovers all over the world from writing trite and poorly crafted love poems for their sweethearts,” Ms. Day said with a laugh. “We think this will be a good time for everyone.”

Dorothy Fletcher went on to say, “I suppose that what we are actually saying is what all good writers know almost instinctively--and that is to ‘Show me! Don’t tell me!’ To say that you ‘love’ someone is just so much verbiage, but to show someone ‘caressing the face with a tender touch’ or ‘enjoying the thrill when a certain smile shines across the room’--that would be better. It at least shows that someone is actually in love, not just saying that he or she is.”

“There is also a danger,” she continues, “for those who prefer to write more metrical forms of poetry, especially when trying to rhyme with the word ‘love.’ By my count there are only 4 other words in English that rhyme with ‘love’—glove, above, dove, and shove—and let’s face it. None of these words really works well together. If you must use rhyme, then never end a line with the word ‘love.’ And as I have maintained all along—just don’t use the word ‘love’ at all! If you show the results of love, then your sweetheart will get the message.”

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Dorothy Fletcher
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