New to using prompts? Take a look at these notes on how to use writing prompts. Otherwise, jump right in!
GO GET SOME INSPIRATION –>
For this poetry prompt for Valentine’s Day, start by reading “Untitled [Do you still remember: falling stars]” by Rainer Maria Rilke (as translated by Edward Snow) and give some thought to what you like/admire.
For me, it’s that Rilke captures the delusions of grandeur being in love can inspire. And instead of poking fun at us (or at himself), he embraces the phenomenon as a shared human experience. How silly (and necessary!) for us to feel as though our current romance is the biggest love that’s ever existed in all of the universe and surely will transcend time itself! And although he acknowledges the absurdity of that in the poem’s final line, he does it gently, via a kind of nostalgia for this collective culpability.
I also appreciate that the poem avoids being overly sentimental. Tricky for a love poem to do! This is accomplished by incorporating words that offer a glimpse into the imperfections of romantic love: words like “hurdles,” “hazards” and “disintegration.” These are not typical love poem words and may seem in opposition to what the poem is saying about love being grand and lasting forever. Instead, they’re subtle reminders that love encompasses risk and a fair amount of disappointment, including paling in comparison to what “forever” actually is in the context of the cosmos. Risk is just part of it — “wedded to the swift hazard of their play” — and unlikely to deter us.
Note that word, too: “wedded.”
NOW START WRITING –>
- Think of something you witnessed while spending time with a romantic partner and open your poem with that recollection. (If you like, start off in the form of a question, as Rilke did.)
- Spend most of the poem describing what you observed together, including what most amazed you about it and how it made you closer in that moment. Like Rilke, try to include some words that may see to work against romance to add texture/depth/reality to your poem.
- Keep your poem roughly the same size as Rilke’s — 10 medium-long lines — in order to achieve a certain amount of compression that forces you to choose only the most powerful details.
Bonus points if you can, like Rilke, write an “I’ll love you forever poem” without saying “forever” (or its synonyms). Variations are acceptable, of course, and include “I’ll love you ’til breakfast” or “I’ll love you ’til it becomes necessary to know your name” (one-night stand poems), “You had me at ‘hello'” (a love-at-first sight poem), “I don’t want to ruin what we have” (a friend zone poem), etc. In any case, give us clues about the amount of time this romance claims without actually stating it.
IMPORTANT NOTE –>
Do not copy the poem that inspired this writing prompt. It’s a good idea when you harvest material from these exercises to either credit their inspiration (i.e. make a note at the top of your poem, like after Rilke’s ‘”Untitled [Do you still remember: falling stars]””) or remove the scaffolding provided by the example and keep only the material you crafted. In other words: make it your own.
Be sure to let me know if you write a poem or other piece in response to this poetry prompt for Valentine’s Day. I’d love to read it! I’m going to attempt to share at least two new poetry prompts with you each month in 2021. You can find past poetry prompts here, including writing prompts from prior years.