Poetry to help me through my first breakup.
December 10, 2009 1:13 AM   Subscribe

What poetry has brought you comfort after a breakup?

It was my first relationship, she broke up with me, but I think it was for the best. Derek Walcott's Love After Love really resonates with what I'm feeling right now. Nothing depressing or bitter, please. Thanks, Metafilter.
posted by yaymukund to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've always found William Earnest Henley's "Invictus" to be particularly uplifting.
posted by biochemist at 1:30 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really liked the collections Kiss Off: Poems to Set You Free and The Hell With Love: Poems to Mend a Broken Heart for more general reasons, but they might fit your bill. The titles sound bitter (and quite a few poems within are), but also they contain some lovely hopeful things upon first quick re-look:

Jane Hirschfield's Not Yet and Da Capo
Miguel De Unamuno's Throw Yourself Like Seed
e.e. cumming's i thank You God for most this amazing (I'm not into God much, but the sentiment remains)
Elizabeth Bishop's One Art
Marie Ponsot's One is One
posted by charmedimsure at 1:46 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]




Kahlil Gibran has some things to say about love.
posted by ambient2 at 2:05 AM on December 10, 2009


It's not a poem in the strictest sense, but I've found the words to Stars' "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" to be quite comforting, and helpful in moving forward. (The song title is a bit decieving, it's not really that bitter.)

There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave
You were what I wanted
I gave what I gave
I'm not sorry I met you
I'm not sorry it's over
I'm not sorry there's nothing to save

posted by sarahsynonymous at 3:01 AM on December 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Margaret Atwood "you fit into me".

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye.

A fish hook.

An open eye.

posted by flutable at 3:18 AM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Write it on your heart by Emerson is nice.
posted by leigh1 at 3:42 AM on December 10, 2009


I found the Philip Larkin poem "Since the majority of me" useful, my first breakup. It isn't exactly cheerful, but it's rueful and accepting, not just of a breakup itself but of the way you stay sad afterwards even if it's the right thing to do:

Since the majority of me
Rejects the majority of you,
Debating ends forthwith, and we
Divide. And sure of what to do [...]

Another was Edna St Vincent Millay's "Passer Mortuus Est" (the allusion is to Catullus' poem about the death of Lesbia's sparrow). It seems to be widely accepted at the moment that Millay is not actually very good, but I found the sentiment of the last stanza useful.
posted by severalbees at 3:44 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is among my favorite poems. Although it does reference a somewhat famous doomed literary couple, and might seem a bit gloomy its really about moving on.

Eurydice Reveals Her Strength by A. E. Stallings.
posted by elendil71 at 5:04 AM on December 10, 2009


When I was much younger, The Dark Girl's Rhyme did it for me.

Lots of other Dorothy Parker, too.
posted by hought20 at 5:50 AM on December 10, 2009


Er, sorry, I didn't see the "no bitter," so maybe not so much with Dorothy.
posted by hought20 at 5:51 AM on December 10, 2009


The poetry in How to Survive the Loss of a Love helped me survive my first (and every subsequent) heartbreak.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:53 AM on December 10, 2009


"Shoes" by Charles Bukowski.

when you're young
a pair of
female
high-heeled shoes
just sitting
alone
in the closet
can fire your
bones;
when you're old
it's just
a pair of shoes
without
anybody
in them
and
just as
well.
posted by bingo at 6:35 AM on December 10, 2009


I'm sorry to hear about your breakup.

may my heart always be open - because it'll get better, so hey heart, don't change.

This one is mournful; sometimes when I'm sad, I find it comforting to read others with similar sentiments: Song Of Despair by Pablo Neruda (with translation side by side).

Failing and Flying by Jack Gilbert


nthing Gibran, Jane Hirschfield, and totally the band Stars. I know you asked for poetry, but you should check them out.
posted by jacquilinala at 7:20 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like to listen to gangsta rap. Then again, my breakups are usually bitter affairs involving much recrimination and accusations across the board.
posted by reenum at 7:38 AM on December 10, 2009


I loved you once: perhaps that love has yet
To die down thoroughly within my soul;
But let it not dismay you any longer;
I have no wish to cause you any sorrow.
I loved you wordlessly, without a hope,
By shyness tortured, or by jealousy.
I loved you with such tenderness and candor
And pray God grants you to be loved that way again.

'Я вас любил', in the Russian, by Aleksandr Pushkin.

posted by Coobeastie at 7:48 AM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Getting Out, Cleopatra Mathis

That year we hardly slept, waking like inmates
who beat the walls. Every night
another refusal, the silent work
of tightening the heart.
Exhausted, we gave up; escaped
to the apartment pool, swimming those laps
until the first light relieved us.

Days were different: FM and full-blast
blues, hours of guitar "you gonna miss me
when I'm gone." Think how you tried
to pack up and go, for weeks stumbling
over piles of clothing, the unstrung tennis rackets.
Finally locked into blame, we paced
that short hall, heaving words like furniture.

I have the last unshredded pictures
of our matching eyes and hair. We've kept
to separate sides of the map,
still I'm startled by men who look like you.
And in the yearly letter, you're sure to say
you're happy now. Yet I think of the lawyer's bewilderment
when we cried, the last day. Taking hands
we walked apart, until our arms stretched
between us. We held on tight, and let go.
posted by liketitanic at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not relationship-specific, but the poem that got me through my first break-up was Max Erhmann's Desiderata, specifically the last verse. I'm a pessimist by default, and this poem helped me admit that despite the shitty things that happen, my goal is to be happy. It also reminded me that I am a part of something larger, which helped keep the breakup in perspective.

I did wallow. But then I moved on. You will too.
posted by moutonoir at 8:28 AM on December 10, 2009


I've always loved this:

The Wheel of Law
by Ho Chi Minh

The wheel of the law turns
without pause.

After the rain, good weather.
In the wink of an eye

the universe throws off
its muddy clothes.

For ten thousand miles
the land

spreads out like a beautiful brocade.
Light breezes. Smiling flowers.

High in the trees, among
the sparkling leaves

all the birds sing at once.
People and animals rise-up reborn.

What could be more natural?
After sorrow, comes joy.
posted by min at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ernest Dowson is more often than not both bitter and depressing, but he wrote two surprisingly refreshing and sensible poems on the ending of a love affair: "April Love" and "To His Mistress".
So shall we not part at the end of day,
  Who have loved and lingered a little while,
Join lips for the last time, go our way,
  With a sigh, a smile?
posted by dilettanti at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2009


Philip Larkin:

Love, we must part now: do not let it be
Calamitious and bitter. In the past
There has been too much moonlight and self-pity:
Let us have done with it: for now at last
Never has sun more boldly paced the sky,
Never were hearts more eager to be free,
To kick down worlds, lash forests; you and I
No longer hold them; we are husks, that see
The grain going forward to a different use.

There is regret. Always, there is regret.
But it is better that our lives unloose,
As two tall ships, wind-mastered, wet with light,
Break from an estuary with their courses set,
And waving part, and waving drop from sight.
posted by pete_22 at 10:09 AM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


The mornings are the hardest for me, but today I woke up and read your responses. I'll mark this as resolved but please keep posting.
posted by yaymukund at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2009


Not a poem, but if you love poetry and you're coping with a breakup, you really need to read Charles Baxter's "The Cures for Love" in Believers.
posted by tangerine at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2009


The Sentence
by Anna Akhmatova

And the stone word fell
On my still-living breast.
Never mind, I was ready.
I will manage somehow.

Today I have so much to do:
I must kill memory once and for all,
I must turn my soul to stone,
I must learn to live again—

Unless . . . Summer's ardent rustling
Is like a festival outside my window.
For a long time I've foreseen this
Brilliant day, deserted house.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 6:12 PM on December 10, 2009


Loss

The day he moved out was terrible —
That evening she went through hell.
His absence wasn't a problem
But the corkscrew had gone as well.

Wendy Cope
posted by tallus at 1:25 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unhappy Catullus, stop playing the fool,
and let end that which you know leads you to ruin.
Once, bright days shone for you,
when you were often drawn to that girl,
loved as no other will be loved by you.
Then there were many pleasures with her,
that you wanted, and the girl did not mind;
truly the bright days shone for you.
And now she no longer wants you: and you
weak man, should be unwilling to chase what flees,
or else live in misery: be strong-minded, stand firm.
Goodbye girl, now Catullus endures,
he will not search for you, won’t ask for you unwillingly.
Instead you will grieve, when nobody comes calling.
Woe to you, wicked girl, what life is left for you?
Who will submit to you now? Who will see your beauty?
Who now will you love? Whose will they say you’ll be?
Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, be resolved and be firm.
posted by aheckler at 3:45 AM on December 11, 2009


Turns out she was at best dishonest and at worst cheating on me. At least the uncertainty is gone. I'll highlight all those bitter ones now, heh.
posted by yaymukund at 4:27 PM on December 13, 2009


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