Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poetry to Pillowtalk: The 14 Best Poems to Woo a Lover

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Looking to pitch some (bookish) woo? To celebrate Valentine's Day, we asked writers, publishing professionals and literary luminaries for their selection of the best poem with which to turn your beloved's knees to jelly.

Sweet, funny, sultry or surreal, you'll find it here. From the poem that isn't written yet to a novel that sneaks in, romantic inspiration abounds. Read on to get the best recommendations for the perfect literary Valentine's.
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Michelle Blackwell:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"i love you much(most beautiful darling)" by e. e. cummings

Why:
It’s a very simple, beautiful way of telling someone that you like them more than anyone else.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "i love you much(most beautiful darling)

      more than anyone on the earth and i
      like you better than everything in the sky"

Accompany it with:
A picnic. Inside or out.

Michelle Blackwell is an Associate Marketing Manager at Simon & Schuster Canada.
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Stacey May Fowles:

The best poem to woo a lover:
Jeannette Winterson’s Written on the Body, which I know is a novel but undoubtedly poetic.

Why:
Perfect for romantic masochists with a firm sense of longing and self-loathing, this is one of those books where you finish almost every page with a heavy sigh. Beautiful, sad, painful, and perfect — so pretty much exactly like love. This book wooed me so good I’ve got the wedding dress to prove it.

Best line/quote from the poem:
“Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body. Your morse code interferes with my heart beat. I had a steady heart before I met you, I relied upon it, it had seen active service and grown strong. Now you alter its pace with your own rhythm, you play upon me, drumming me taut.”

Accompany it with:
A bruised heart and a bottle of good scotch.

Stacey May Fowles is a writer and critic whose next novel, Infidelity, is forthcoming with ECW Press.
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Catherine Graham:

The best poem to woo a lover:
“It Is Here” by Harold Pinter.

Why:
Because breath is life and life is love when you meet the one that sounds you through the maze of light that came in on the dark and into the shaking room.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "It was the breath we took when we first met."

Accompany it with:
A room to hear/here the moment.

Catherine Graham's next poetry book will appear fall 2013 with Wolsak & Wynn. Visit http://www.catherinegraham.com.
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Amanda Hopkins:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"Down by the Salley Gardens" by W.B. Yeats.

Why:
Perhaps this poem won’t woo a lover into bed, but its quiet urging will woo one to love in a way that is deep and grounded. Who wants to be swept off her feet? This short, two-stanza poem says: take love easy, give it time to grow, don’t be foolish. To me, that is romance. The poem ends on a cautionary note.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree"

Accompany it with:
It just so happens that this poem has been adapted into an Irish folk song that has been covered countless times. I like this version by Maura O’Connell and Karen Matheson.

Amanda Hopkins is a lover of literature and a romantic through-and-through. She works at the Writers’ Trust of Canada where she administers literary prizes and coordinates events that promote Canadian authors.
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James Hatch:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"Meeting at Night" by Robert Browning.

Why:
This poem beautifully renders the sort of landscape-illuminating anticipation that preludes a clandestine assignation. The poem’s unique a,b,c,c,b,a rhyme scheme suggests to me the ebbing and flowing of the sea and also a sense of unity with the natural world.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
      And blue spurt of a lighted match,
                                  And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,
                                  Than the two hearts beating each to each!"

Accompany it with:
Cheap champagne and a bubble bath.

James Hatch is a Publicity Assistant at Dundurn Press.
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Daniel Karasik:

The best poem to woo a lover:
An untitled 1925 poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Edward Snow)

Why:
Because it’s perfect.

Best line/quote from the poem:
The whole (brief) thing:
      "But if you’d try this: to be hand in my hand
      as in the wineglass the wine is wine.
      If you’d try this."

Accompany it with:
Unconditional devotion.

Daniel Karasik's debut poetry collection, Hungry, will be published this spring by Cormorant Books.
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Holly Kent:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"Song" by Leonard Cohen (from The Spice-Box of Earth)

Why:
When that exciting nervousness, that shyness, reappears after you've known and been with someone for a while...is there anything better?

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "and you kissed me
      shy as though I'd
                                  never been your lover"
(this is almost half the poem)

Accompany it with:
A home-cooked meal, because restaurants and the weather are usually hell on February 14th.

Holly Kent is a book lover, a poetry lover, and the Sales Marketing Manager at the Canadian Children's Book Centre.
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Erin Knight:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"The Two of You," by Czeslaw Milosz.

Why:
Because the hair stands up on the back of my neck every time I read it.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "Let that little park with greenish marble busts
      In the pearl grey light, under a summer drizzle,
      Remain as it was when you opened the gate."

Accompany it with:
A marriage vow.

Erin Knight is the author of Chaser and the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Ontario.
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Michael Lista:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"I Hid My Love" by John Clare

Why:
As with the best poems, it knows what's on your mind before you do.

Best line/quote from the poem:
To wit: no one can read this innocent line as it's written.

      "I met her in the greenest dells,
                                  Where dewdrops pearl the wood bluebells"

Accompany it with:
Jimmy Buffet's "Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw."

Michael Lista is the author of Bloom and the Poetry Editor for The Walrus magazine.
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Grace O'Connell:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"Variations on the Word Sleep" by Margaret Atwood.

Why:
Because it's a bizarre, delicious, hopeless dream anyone who's ever been in love will recognise.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "I would like to be the air
      that inhabits you for a moment
      only. I would like to be that unnoticed
      & that necessary."

Accompany it with:
Champagne, smeared eye make-up, cab fare.

Grace O'Connell is the author of Magnified World and the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto.
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Jenny Sampirisi:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"Meditations in an Emergency" Frank O’Hara.

Why:
It doesn’t describe love with rose coloured glasses on. It’s full of self-loathing and want/need; longing only when the love is unattainable, and apathetic when the love is available. But it’s more complex than that; the love in these pages is present and pained at all turns. For the sublime complexity of love you can’t do much better than O’Hara. And yes, it’s a lot of selfish love, but hey, if you’re wooing the someone-of-your-dreams with this, at least they know what they’re getting into.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so.
      I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set.
      It's like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over."

Accompany it with:
Since Mad Men made the book popular again, I suppose you could serve this with a cigarette, some self-doubt, and a glass of expensive scotch. But if that show didn’t exist, some Ethiopian Jazz (maybe Getatchew Mekurya) would do the trick.

Jenny Sampirisi is the author of Croak and the Managing Editor of BookThug.
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Tabatha Southey:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"The Second Hour of the Night" (but only the first bit which stands well alone, as I would not push my luck with all 43 or so pages) By Frank Bidart.

Why:
Because it's not a romantic poem, which we wouldn't need and whoever we are that Valentine’s Day, I'll assume we have only one night, as it's always best to do, so we'd celebrate that fact with this poem (the poem is dark, a touch serial killer-ish even) by contrasting our newness and unfixedness with the “the houses in which they
live bearing the bodies they desired and killed” and if the night goes well we will do that as long, in all things, and ways, as is possible.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "On such a night
      at that hour when
      slow bodies like automatons begin again to move down"

Accompany it with:
I suppose I'd make risotto because it has to be stirred a long time and there's the promise then of arms slipping around you from behind while you do that and because sex and domesticity, the stirring, the serving itself, are inextricably linked in my mind (the poem is also a cautionary tale to me) I'd like that — maybe mushroom — also steak. We'd drink a Tom Eddy 2004 Cabernet because I was served some recently and it was incredible and, by nature of its price, perfectly day-seizey, and thus in keeping with the theme.

Tabatha Southey is a columnist for both the Globe & Mail and ELLE Canada.
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Vikki VanSickle:

The best poem to woo a lover:
"The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear.

Why:
Never has elopement been more charming.

Best line/quote from the poem:
      "They dined on mince and slices of quince,
      Which they ate with a runcible spoon"

I’m not sure what a runcible spoon is, but I bet you can find it at The Junction Flea.

Accompany it with:
A surprise visit to Toronto Island, complete with a bottle of wine and a guitar. Mince and quince optional.

Vikki VanSickle is the author of Days That End in Y and the forthcoming Summer Days, Starry Nights.
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Natalie Zina Walschots:

The best poem to woo a lover:
I am of the opinion that the best, most wooing poem is always one that you have written for the object of your affections, just for them and them alone, specifically for the occasion.

Why:
Anyone dating a creative person simultaneously hopes/fears that their partner will write about them. They hope to be immortalized in art for their muse-lie status; they are terrified about being immortalized in art for being that terrible asshole who broke your heart and left wet towels on the couch.

Best line/quote from the poem:
My answer here is more general and specific, I realize, but I do have an example; it's in song form rather than poem, but here it is anyway. This duet is an unreleased song written by both Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain for each other (only available on archival home videos and featured in the documentary Hit So Hard). There is something about the honesty in the love here, the simultaneously tenderness and disgust, that is just between them, just for them, and it's beautiful.

Accompany it with:
Their poison of choice. That thing that both of you know isn't really good for them, and that they usually avoid because it's for the best, but they love it so much. Bourbon or tequila. Unfiltered cigarettes or a fat, fragrant cigar. An entire chocolate cake. A vice.

Natalie Zina Walschots is a music reviewer, producer and the author of DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillans.

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