Poems of love and loss in Bookmark This! Valentine's Day podcast

The Straits Times Life journalists Olivia Ho (left) and Toh Wen Li discuss love poetry in their podcast Bookmark This! Ep 13.
The Straits Times Life journalists Olivia Ho (left) and Toh Wen Li discuss love poetry in their podcast Bookmark This! Ep 13.ST PHOTO: YEO SAM JO

SINGAPORE - In the mood for love poems this Valentine's Day? Straits Times journalists Olivia Ho and Toh Wen Li run through some of their favourites for all occasions - romance, loss and even learning to love yourself again - in their Bookmark This! podcast. Here are 10 poems from their list:

1. Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

(from Mean Time, available at bit.ly/MeanTime_Duffy)

Forget red roses and satin hearts. Duffy, the former British poet laureate, wants to give you an onion. This unusual conceit turns the humble bulb into a charming metaphor for love.

2. Having A Coke With You by Frank O'Hara

(from The Collected Poems Of Frank O'Hara, available at bit.ly/Frank_O_Hara)

In this dizzying poem, the speaker breathlessly declares he would rather look at the person he loves than all the portraits in the world, except maybe The Polish Rider in The Frick Collection in New York, which he would like them to go see together.

3. i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) by e.e. cummings

(from Complete Poems 1904-1962, available at bit.ly/Cummings_Complete)

Cummings deploys his unorthodox parentheses like embraces in this sweet, sing-song poem suffused with an almost childlike wonder, the "wonder that's keeping the stars apart".

4. The Definition Of Love by Andrew Marvell

(from Andrew Marvell: The Complete Poems, available at bit.ly/Complete_Poems)

The 17th-century poet depicts an impossible love using the conceit of two parallel lines which could run into infinity but never meet - a love that is "the conjunction of the mind,/And opposition of the stars".

5. Small Town Romance by Yin C.H.

(from Unfree Verse, available at bit.ly/Unfree_verse)

In this light-hearted local rhyme - published in 1959, making it an early example of home-grown English-language verse - a wealthy Peranakan man flirts with a pretty woman on the way to Muar, Malaysia.

6. The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart by Jack Gilbert

(from The Great Fires, available at bit.ly/Great_Fires)

"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,/and frightening that it does not quite," muses Gilbert in this hieroglyphic-laden poem that questions how we use language to signify love. It embeds a reference to his wife Michiko Nogami, a sculptor who died of cancer aged 36.

7. The Relic by John Donne

(from The Poetry Of John Donne, available at bit.ly/Poetry_JD)

Donne, who was Marvell's peer among the metaphysical poets (so known for their inventive use of conceits), gets playfully morbid here by imagining his grave being dug up in the future to expose the corpses of him and his lover, bound at the wrist by a bracelet of bright hair. "All measure, and all language, I should pass," he declares, "Should I tell what a miracle she was."

 
 
 
 

8. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

(from Poems: Elizabeth Bishop, available at bit.ly/Poems_EB)

"The art of losing isn't hard to master" is one of the refrains in this masterful villanelle (a 19-line poetic form that uses two repeating rhymes and two refrains). Bishop starts with small losses - keys, wasted time - and keeps building on these until the final, unbearable loss of "you" - which she is determined, nevertheless, to bear.

9. Scheherazade by Richard Siken

(from Crush, available at bit.ly/Crush_RS)

"Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake/and dress them in warm clothes again," begins this dream-like poem, a film reel running in reverse, which opens Siken's devastating Crush, a collection influenced by his boyfriend's death in 1991.

10. Here Is A Flower That Needs No Water by Pooja Nansi

(from Love Is An Empty Barstool, available at bit.ly/Barstool_PN)

Nansi, the current director of the Singapore Writers Festival, reaches out in this poem of healing to someone, anyone, in need - it could be a romantic love, but also any readers out there who have felt they "will never be whole enough/to fill the leaky holes of someone else's heart". She reassures them: "I am here, palms held open and I/ love you."

To hear about more love poems, listen at: str.sg/JpXg

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