What is an appropriate modern love poem for a reading at a wedding?
May 14, 2007 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to give a reading at a friend's wedding, so I'm looking for a poem that would be appropriate. Ideally, it should be modern (written after 1900) and sweet, but not sexual, religious, schmaltzy, or emetic. Most suggestions online are variations of Maya Angelou's "Touched By An Angel". I found the previous two AskMe questions on this topic helpful, and I have some ideas, but I'm hoping to generate a few more.

I very much like Anne Sexton, Wislawa Szymborska, and Czeslaw Milosz, but their work doesn't seem suitable. Still, bonus points if it's by one of them!

Also, a side question. Most love poems address the beloved directly. When I give the reading, I don't want to sound like I'm pining after the bride, but it seems like it's standard to present these sorts of poems anyway. Is that right?
posted by painquale to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, Billy Collins. Isn't this what he's for?

Litany (You are the bread and the knife ...)

(I saw this read at a friend's wedding, and beautifully. But the couple picked it themselves, so ymmv.)
posted by minervous at 2:49 PM on May 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesnt matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesnt always understand.

Czeslaw Milosz
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:50 PM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm partial to Louise Gluck's "Gratitude." A friend of mine has also suggested William Carlos Williams' "Love Song."

I asked my father to read Robert Phillips' "The Marrying Man," at my wedding. There's a rather visceral line about a chicken being torn in two, which I think confused some of the church-goers, but I was pretty happy with it. I'm also a giant nerd for Robert Phillips.

On preview: The Milosz looks pretty darn good, too.
posted by RossWhite at 2:52 PM on May 14, 2007

About Marriage, by Denise Levertov

We used this at our wedding. I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in either of the threads you linked above.
posted by Shecky at 2:57 PM on May 14, 2007

i do really like w.h. auden's "o tell me the truth about love" generally (and as a non-squishy love poem that isn't directed specifically at the beloved). another one by auden that may fit your requirements is "the more loving one."

there is also a lovely poem called "credo" by a contemporary poet called matthew rohrer.
posted by violetk at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2007

Why Marriage?, by: Mari Nichols-Haining

This was one of our readings. Worked well for us.
posted by procrastination at 3:25 PM on May 14, 2007

Love and Tensor Algebra
Stanislaw Lem

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not - for what then shall remain?
Abscissas some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
the product of four scalars it defines!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi!

[Note: Poem translated from Polish by Michael Kandel]
posted by nilihm at 4:22 PM on May 14, 2007 [4 favorites]

We read a slightly edited version of Szymborska's True Love at our wedding and it was a big hit.

Also make sure to look at all these previous questions.
posted by miagaille at 4:24 PM on May 14, 2007

I read "i carry your heart with me" by e.e. cummings at a friend's wedding. It went over well.
posted by princesspathos at 4:49 PM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the link, roll truck roll.

Neruda and cummings are the go-to authors for this.
posted by amber_dale at 5:00 PM on May 14, 2007

The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear, if you can get past the inclination to deliver in a nursery song rhythm.
posted by nita at 5:32 PM on May 14, 2007

have to second one of roll truck roll's...
... Frank O'Hara's Having a Coke With You...
posted by priested at 6:00 PM on May 14, 2007

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can't be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

From "Admonitions to a Special Person" by Anne Sexton.
posted by hyperfascinated at 6:29 PM on May 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

"Autumn," by Garrison Keillor:

Here on an autumn night in the sweet orchard smell,
Sitting in a pile of leaves under the starry sky,
Oh what stories we could tell
With this starlight to tell them by.

October night, and you, and paradise,
So lovely and so full of grace,
Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
And I reach out my hand to touch your face.

I believe in impulse, in all that is green,
Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
And for this lifetime I believe in you.

All of the lovers and the love they made:
Nothing that was between them was a mistake.
All that we did for love's sake,
Is not wasted and will never fade.

All who have loved shall be forever young
And walk in grandeur on a cool fall night
Along the avenue,
They live in every song that is ever sung,
In every painting of pure light,
In every pas de deux.

Oh love that shines in every star
And love reflected in the silver moon.
It is not here, but it's not far.
Not yet, but it will be here soon.

--Garrison Keillor

(c) 1998 by Garrison Keillor
posted by 4ster at 8:06 PM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's probably not the same for everyone, but this poem always gives me a beautiful sense of the cycles of life, of love and human society.

'anyone lived in a pretty how town' by ee cummings:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
posted by Arturus at 12:10 AM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

amber_dale typed "Thanks for the link, roll truck roll.

"Neruda and cummings are the go-to authors for this."

Ha! I love Metafilter. Your site was the first hit when I searched for the poem.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2007

« Older Where the sidewalk ends.   |   When you forward a message through outlook, how... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.