Common Good Books

Live Local, Read Large

How to Write a Love Poem: Jeff Shotts

An Eavesdropping

  1. No one should avoid writing a love poem. But it is a form, perhaps more than any other, that invites snark from others and shame from oneself.
  2. While writing a love poem, you must ignore everyone but the beloved. The moment the poem gets distracted by anyone or anything else, the poem becomes an act of performance, which has its own pleasures, but it is no longer a love poem.
  3. The audience for a love poem must be an audience of one. There may be something powerful in declaring your love in front of others, but there is also something cowardly in the performance of such declaration.
  4. Bold is the intimate admission of love, written by one for only one. Bolder still is the love poem that may be rejected.
  5. The poet and the beloved might decide to make the poem available for others to read, in which case, the experience for the reader of a love poem is an eavesdropping.

Executive Editor Jeff Shotts has worked at Graywolf Press for nearly 15 years with such writers as Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Jo Bang, Charles Baxter, Eula Biss, Robert Bly, Mark Doty, Nick Flynn, Tess Gallagher, Dana Gioia, Albert Goldbarth, Linda Gregg, Eamon Grennan, Marilyn Hacker, Donald Hall, Matthea Harvey, Tony Hoagland, Fanny Howe, Carl Phillips, D.A. Powell, Claudia Rankine, Charles Simic, Tom Sleigh, Tracy K. Smith, Dorothea Tanning, Tomas Tranströmer, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young, among many others. Authors whose books Shotts has acquired and edited have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism and in poetry, and many other awards and honors.