Poems on Demand

My younger sister is getting married this fall (hurrah! I am over-the-moon happy to see her settling down with a great guy!) and my family wants me to write a poem for the occasion and my notebook taunts me with its vast expanse of empty empty wasteland of pages...

I try to write a love poem and I write a poem about Zu or Bryan or washing dishes or the springtime weather or laundry drying on the line...

Actually, I would consider many of my poems to be love poems. The problem is that they are highly personal with specific personal details; I haven't lived their love story so I don't know how to write it. My first attempt ended up in the trash after our drunk uncles somehow showed up at the reception, and my second attempt somehow makes me feel sad at the end, which isn't what I'm going for.

The root of the problem is that not only does this have to be a love poem for someone else, but it has to be a family-friendly, publicly acceptable love poem in plain ole American that even cats and dogs can read.

If only I could write something lovely as this....
Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Oh Neruda. Of course, no one can compete with the sexiness of a Chilean poet

So have you ever written a poem for a special occasion? Any advice? Any sympathy?


  1. I'm going to write you back after the craziness here dies down (busy Easter weekend and then Christina is visiting tomorrow and Tuesday), but I did want to say that I completely feel your pain! I was commissioned to write a poem for Tori's wedding and it took me forever to get it right. It has to be, like you said, more of an everyday poem - a poem for people who don't like poetry, possibly, as there will be a range of guests. I ended up going with a very simple "blessing" and went with some poetry imagery that was sort of cliche because I wanted it to be accessible. I'm sure you'll think of something awesome.

    1. Maybe I will try that route--its much harder writing for an audience in mind, rather than just writing and not minding whether an audience likes it or not!