California Poets in the School Peter Y. Chou (Poet-Teacher)

Poetry Workshop: Love Poems—
Read the following love poems, circling words & phrases which move your heart.

(1) Use these key words as trigger points for your own Valentine Poem—
Write a “Love Letter Poem” to someone you love, or a “Declaration of Love” poem to the world.


(2) Imagine yourself as Cupid— shooting your love darts to make any couple fall in love
for keeps or to make anyone fall in love with you. Start your poem with “If I were Cupid...”

| Shakespeare's “Sonnet 116” | Elizabeth Browning's “Sonnets from the Portuguese 41” |
| William Stafford's “Passing Remark” | e. e. cumming's “open your heart” |
| John Ciardi's “I Marry You” | Peter's “Cupid” | Kuan Tao-shêng's “Married Love” |
| Chang Pi's “Butterfly” | Lady Muraski's “our love be clear” | Rumi's “Quatrains” |

Western Love Poems

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Sonnet CXVI (1609)

I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart's
Or temple's occupation, beyond call.
But thous, who, in my voice's sink and fall
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art's
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To hearken what I said between my tears,S
Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot
My soul's full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from Life that disappears!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Sonnets from the Portuguese XLI (1850)


In scenery I like flat country.
In life I don't like too much to happen.

In personalities I like mild colorless people.
And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,
says, "Then why did you choose me?"

Mildly I lower my brown eyes —
There are so many things admirable people do not understand.

William Stafford (1914-1993)
from Stories That Could Be True (1961)

Men Marry What They Need. I Marry You

Men marry what they need. I marry you,
morning by morning, day by day, night by night,
and every marriage makes this marriage new.

In the broken name of heaven, in the light
that shatters granite, by the spitting shore,
in air that leaps and wobbles like a kite,

I marry you from time and a great door
is shut and stays shut against wind, sea, stone,
sunburst, and heavenfall. And home once more

inside our walls of skin and struts of bone,
man-woman, woman-man, and each the other,
I marry you by all dark and all dawn

and learn to let time spend. Why should I bother
the flies about me? Let them buzz and do.
Men marry their queen, their daughter, or their mother

by names they prove, but that thin buzz whines through:
when reason falls to reasons, cause is true.
Men marry what they need. I marry you.

John Ciardi (1916-1986)
from I Marry You (1958)

open your heart:
i'll give you a treasure
of tiniest world
a piece of forever with

summitless younger than
angels are mountains
rivery forests
towerful towns (queen

sprout heroes of moonstar
flutter to and
swim blossoms of person) through

musical shadows while hunted
by daemons
see the luminous
leopards (on wingfeet of thingfear)

come ships go
snowily sailing
perfect silence.
Absolute ocean

e.e. cummings (1894-1962)
from 1 x 1 (1944)


You are surrounded
by his loving arms—
his bows strung & unstrung
pointing away from you,
his sword sweeps closely
and just when you think
you're safe, his arrow
pierces your heart

and you want to kiss
every blade of grass,
soar with the West Wind
up to cirrus clouds brush-
stroking the skies, seeing
beauty everywhere,
you ride a raindrop back
to this dear earth

Peter Y. Chou
Palo Alto, 2-12-93

Oriental Love Poems


You and I
have so much love
that it burns like fire,
in which we bake a lump of clay
to mold a figure of you
and a figure of me.
In a moment of passion,
we break the images to pieces,
and mix them in water,
knead and mold again
an image of you
and another of me.
Now I am in your clay
and you are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we'll share one coffin.

Kuan Tao-shêng (1262-1319))
Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung (Ed. & trans.)
The Orchid Boat: Women Poets of China (1972)


time of late spring
girl slender in a light yellow dress
leans in the window trying to paint him
As if she's with him in the flowers
coupled, together and flying
She can't help it if her tears wet the paint
Making his wings too heavy to lift

— Chang Pi
(of the Five Dynasties, 10th century)
from John Scott (Ed. & trans.) Love & Protest (1972)

Genji: May the course of our love be clear
as the waters of yonder lake,
from which, in the spring sunshine,
the last clot of ice has melted away.

Murasaki: On the bright mirror of these waters
I see stretched out the cloudless years
love hold for us in store.

Lady Murasaki (978-1025)
Genji Monogatari, III.5.468

The moment I heard my first love story
I began searching for you, not knowing
how foolish that was. True lovers don't meet
somewhere out there, but are in each other all along.

Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Quatrains 1246

I asked for one kiss: You gave me six.
The teacher is now the student.
Good and generous things grow
in me, and the air is dancing.

Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Quatrains 1193

The clear bead at the center changes everything.
There are no edges to my loving now.

I've heard it said there's a window that opens
from one mind to another,

but if there's no wall, there's no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.

Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Quatrains 511

Peter Y. Chou, Poetry Writing Workshops

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