Valentine’s Day is upon us! Frazzled, frantic, totally fricked by your lack of preparation? May I recommend a free gift: a poem. The death of poetry has been greatly exaggerated; it’s relevant as ever and more accessible than you may remember.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans participating in Valentine’s Day festivities expect to shell out an average of $162 this year. That’s a lot of cash. And while there’s nothing wrong with wrapping your lover in lace or splurging for a candlelit tasting menu, there’s also no need.
Poems aren’t actually free, of course; they’re works of art and, as such, they take time and labor to create. If you send one, honor that labor by buying a collection of that author’s works. In the meantime, a single poem, sourced online, will fit the pinch you find yourself in currently.
Partnered? Try “Having a Coke with You,” by Frank O’Hara; “To Dorothy,” by Marvin Bell; “Hon or We have both traveled from the other side of some hill, one side of which we may wish we could forget,” by Anis Mojgani; “Maybe I Need You,” by Andrea Gibson; “Over the Edge,” by Wendell Berry.
Contemplative, nostalgic, between states? Give yourself the gift of reading “Splittings,” by Adrienne Rich; “Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil; “Meditation at Lagunitas,” by Robert Haas; “Cardiology,” by Rafael Campo.
Others? So many. They’re at the Poetry Foundation, The Offing, The Rumpus, Academy of American Poets, endless others at endless other places, including your local bookstore or library. Some of the best aren’t available online; take Emily Dickinson’s “The Master Letters,” for instance, or Lucie Brock-Broido’s stunning reimagination of it.
Poetry is personal; you’ll find your own favorites. Printing or emailing is fine if you’re pressed for time or far apart, but transcribing them longhand is doubly charming. Give poems to your lover, to your friends and family, to yourself. “My work is loving the world,” Mary Oliver wrote. It’s work to be cherished.
Melissa Batchelor Warnke is a contributing writer to Opinion. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis.