The Best (Modern) Poems for Any Stage of a Love Affair

This ain't your mama's poetry. A poet friend of mine knows the modernest, sexiest poems for every occasion.

Poetry Book
(Image credit: Mackenzie Stroh)

Almost nothing turns me on more than a man sharing his favorite poems with me. I'd take a man who knows his cunning linguists well over one who is an expert at that other thing any day of the week.

I've dated four guys who won me over thanks, in large part, to poetry. Is it a coincidence that these are the men I remember most fondly and vividly? I don't think so. Two liked to snail mail their favorite poems to me. All four liked to read verse out loud to me now and then — and believe me, it is hot when a dude ventriloquizes Yeats, for example, in order to say:

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read...

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true;

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

From my poetry-loving seducers, I've learned how powerful it can be when I turn things around and throw down some poetry in front of a man myself. And today, in honor of her new book of poetry, Ideal Cities, I asked my very dear friend Erika Meitner to tell us her favorite poems for every romantic (and not-so-romantic) occasion.

Here were her picks:

For when you like a guy a ton, and you want him to think you're cool...

"Knowing You Could Is Better Than Knowing You Will" by Mark Bibbins


I must see you; let's meet at the fringes of respectability

at quarter past nine. We could straddle the oft-licked

curb (it's the repetition we like).

For when you are thinking sweet, dirty thoughts about him...

This little ditty by e.e. cummings (the patron poet of email messages)


i like my body when it is with your

body. It is so quite new a thing.

For when you suddenly realize you (really) love him...

"Morning" by Frank O'Hara


do you know how it is

when you are the only

passenger if there is a

place further from me

I beg you do not go

(I, Maura, also recommend this one — "Your Catfish Friend" by Richard Brautigan — for moments when you are feeling especially lovey-dovey and devoted.)

For a booty call...

This short, sweet one by Matthew Rohrer


You called, you're on the train, on Sunday,

I have just taken a shower and await

you. Clouds are slipping in off the ocean,

but the room is gently lit by the green

shirt you gave me.

For when you're (really) pissed at him...

This untitled poem by Jill Alexander Essbaum


The heart that's had


Stays shut.

For when you have ended things, and you want to let him down gently... (Also good for when you want to defensively explain why you went along with something you knew would end...)

"Failing and Flying" by Jack Gilbert


Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

It's the same when love comes to an end,

or the marriage fails and people say

they knew it was a mistake, that everybody

said it would never work. That she was

old enough to know better. But anything

worth doing is worth doing badly.

For when he's been a real douchebag, and you want to make that perfectly clear...

"Unwritten Law" by Louise Gluck


I blessed my good fortune in you.

Blessed it absolutely....

And you in your wisdom and cruelty

gradually taught me the meaninglessness of that term.

Folks, Erika and I would be so tickled if you weigh in with your thoughts about the best poems for all the stages of a love affair — or simply your reactions to these.