When romance writers are looking around for inspiration, we frequently look no further than the poets. Poetry uses 100 words to say what we take 400 pages to approximate. Poets wrestle the universe for each word, each line, each couplet, while we careen about with chapters and scenes and trilogies.
It isn’t my gift to write poetry, though I’ve taken a few stabs at it. My favorite volume of poetry is, “Sleeping Preacher,” by Julia Kasdorf. Julia was raised “plain coat” Mennonite, and this volume of her poems reflects that perspective, for both good and ill.
I turned to poetry for the sixth book in the Windham series, which features Lady Louisa Windham and Sir Joseph Carrington, her “Christmas knight.” Joseph is plainspoken, a gentleman farmer without pretenses or presumptions and yet, he adores Louisa and sees her for the complicated, brilliant, passionate woman she is.
On their wedding night, Joseph does not tell Louisa he loves her. Eventually he does (of course he does), but early in the relationship he will not allow himself to burden her with his maudlin sentiment. In the dark, holding his wife in his arms, he recites her a poem instead:
To His Mistress by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Why dost thou shade thy lovely face? Oh why
Does that eclipsing hand of thine deny
The sunshine of the Sun’s enlivening eye?
Thou art my life, my way, my light’s in thee;
I love, I move, and by thy beams I see.
Thou art my life—and if thou but turn away
My life’s a thousand deaths. Thou art my way—
Without thee, Love, I travel not but stray.
My light thou art—without thy glorious sight
My eyes are darken’d with eternal night.
My Love, thou art my way, my life, my light.
Louisa is helplessly smitten, though she doesn’t say she loves him either—yet.
Has anyone read poetry to you? Has anyone given you a book of poetry that you’ve treasured all the years since? Are there a couple lines of poetry you’d have to work into any romance with your name on it? Valentine’s Day is coming—let’s hear a few titles, maybe a few lines of your favorites.