Finding The Right Words to say I Love You

It is Valentine’s Day tomorrow and traditionally it’s a day when love is often expressed in the form of a poem. The one, constantly used and overused goes:

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

Sugar is Sweet

And so are You!

The original old English version from Gammer Gurton’s Garland published in 1784 sounds a little more eloquent.

The rose is red, the violet’s blue

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.

Thou are my love and I am thine;

I drew thee to my Valentine:

The lot was cast and then I drew,

And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

But maybe you’d like to step it up and print out a copy of How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning ( 1806-1861), also referred to as Sonnet 43.

The romance between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning is one of the great true literary love stories of the Victorian era. The poem is considered a classic, although perhaps not totally in sync with the 2lst century worldview.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Barrett Browning’s lovely poem stays within the confines of what is called a sonnet. A fixed verse form, a sonnet must have fourteen lines and is typically iambic pentameter and has a prescribed rhyme theme. 

But poetry doesn’t have to follow a prescribed format. It doesn’t have to have a rhyme scheme as in a sonnet. It doesn’t have to have a certain number of syllables per poem or per line as in Haiku ( three lines and 17 syllables) or a Nonet (9 line poem with a syllable count per line of 9–8–7–6–5–4–3–2–1).

Poetry can be so many different things to different writers, it can sometimes be elusive to define. Twenty-first century writers are blurring the definition of prose and poem, nonfiction and fiction. Personally, I like that. I don’t want everything to fall into neat categories.

Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme but it does have rhythm. When I’m writing sentences I constantly think about rhythm and I think about how the words sound, next to each other. Are the consonants hard or soft. Is there intentional repetition? Write your own poem or among all the wonderful poems out there, find one that resonates with you. Looking for a poem about love? Here is a poem (click on the link below) that approaches the subject of love from an entirely different vantage point. “when calculus is enough” by contemporary poet Robert Fleming. Here, Fleming borrows mathematical notations and uses equations. Which leads me to the subject of what is called Found Poetry. (The first in the three poems the selection link takes you to the online publication Synchronized Chaos)

I could write on and on about this subject of different types of poems, configurations and shapes, but in this blog I’m going to focus on what is generally called “Found Poetry.”  Using “found material” does not have to be limited to poetry, it also works well with prose. I posted on the subject of the Hermit Crab Essay in another blog a few months ago, and the Hermit Crab Essay can easily use found materials. In a piece of Flash fiction ot Flash nonfiction, “the list” is another way to use found material. For example, the items on a shopping list can tell a story by inference. Theoretically this might be a list you found and are borrowing .

In reference specifically to poetry, the general definition for found poetry is that it takes existing texts such as other poems, street signs, graffiti, newspaper articles, letters, speeches and refashions them into poems. Think of a Found poem as a collage. In some instances, as a hybrid form, poets do a combination of found materials and original text.  Perhaps you might have seen what is called Blackout poetry, a form of Found poetry. I’ve created an example below, using the How Do I Love Thee? sonnet.

Blackout poetry: is a form of found poetry in which the poet takes an existing work—an article, a short story, or even another poem—and uses a pen or marker to black out certain lines, words, or phrases to reinterpret the original work.

Erasure poetry: is very similar. Replace the black pen with white-out to completely cover the words you wish to eliminate.

Cut-up poetry: literally enables you to make a collage with other people’s words by rearranging them to create new meanings.

A more intricate and complex form of the creative use of found materials in a poem is demonstrated in “Truest Hungers” by Ellis Elliot.

As noted by the Elliot, “This poem is a combination of Found Poems from the text of the book The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown and original atypical haiku in italics is intended as a type of “call and response.”  Please note that the link will take you to three poems published in The Spotlong Review, and “Truest Hungers” is the third poem.

Going back to the Roses are Red poem, and using the original Old English version, it is possible  by selectively re-arranging the words to create something more pleasing. 


A red rose with thorns.


Blue without you.


Two Valentines.

We stick together

Like Honey

Our lives remarkably sweet.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.   Writers: You have your prompt! Take a poem, or a story, or a bunch of advertising slogans and with scissors, black ink or white-out, create something you like.

Thank you for reading. Follow my blog on WordPress or Medium. Check out more of my work at Follow me on Twitter at SN Maril.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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