These Contemporary Poets Are Perfect for Your Wedding Vows

"you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars” - e.e. cummings 
Okay, we’ll admit it: that’s a stunningly beautiful quote (and the rest of the poem isn’t bad either.) But let’s face it: it’s 2020, and so many of the “classic” wedding vows you hear are outdated and overdone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with turning to traditional wedding vows when you feel they are right for your ceremony and your day, but there are a plethora of new poets just waiting to be discovered. Whether they look to reshape the ballads and sonnets of Shakespeare and Neruda or whether they add just a little bit of realistic humor to their verse, poets are constantly innovating the language that we use to talk about love. We here at Loverly figured we would introduce you to some of our favorite modern poets who just might be perfect for inspiring your wedding vows. Because how many times can you really hear 1 Corinithians 13? There is a whole wide world of love literature out there, and it’s worth the search to find someone who has put into words exactly how your heart is feeling. 
Photo by Tim Stagge on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Stagge on Unsplash

Dorothea Lasky

“I was wiser too than you had expected / For I knew all along you were mine” - Poem to an Unnameable Man 
Lasky employs a bit of a slangy style with her poetry, which creates an authentic and intimate voice in her love poetry. It makes you feel like you are reading something private, but the scenes that she depicts are of common life together in a partnership, which makes her perfectly applicable inspiration for your wedding vows. Her poems often recognize the challenges and faults of love, an important understanding to have on your wedding day: it may not be all perfect, but at least you will work through it together. 

Nikki Giovanni 

“I love you / because the Earth turns round the sun / because the North wind blows north / sometimes” - Resignation 
Giovanni is a highly acclaimed poet, especially because of her use of spoken language and writing in the vernacular. She writes about the intensely familiar human experience, using language that we listen to and create. Her poems have a feel of home, using metaphors and figurative language that feels like what you would think up if you ever took the time to try. For that reason, her poems are pure and simple ways to express your love and commitment on your wedding day. 

Rita Dove 

“Here, / it’s all yours now— / but you’ll have / to take me, / too.” - Heart to Heart 
A bit contrary to Giovanni, Dove is a lyrical writer who loves to play with flow and rhythm with her words. You often get the feeling of music or dancing in her work, like the energy of a really good love song without the music. There is a grace and an elegance in her poetry, but it's still down-to-earth, but you can still easilly recognize the excellence and care of these specially chosen words. If you are looking for something that really feels like poetry without getting lost in older language or anything too technical, Dove may be the perfect balance of soul and sweetness.
Photo by Lauren Rader on Unsplash
Photo by Lauren Rader on Unsplash

Joy Harjo 

“There is nowhere else I want to be but here. / I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us” - For Keeps 
You may know Harjo’s name as she is the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Harjo is specifically inspired by landscapes, especially of the land of her Native American roots. Her poems, regardless of their overall theme, have a feeling of being grounded in time and space, with a weightiness and a worldliness to them as well. For those of you who may think that love poems are often too lofty or abstract, Harjo brings you to the Earth where you have existed and met your love and will continue to exist with them in your lives together. 

Paige Lewis

“we get so tangled, / my husband grips his own wrist, / certain it’s my wrist, / and kisses it” - When I Tell My Husband I Miss the Sun, He Knows 
While a little less established than others on this list, Lewis has an incredibly vivid style with unique images that feel ethereal and earthly at the same time. This poem in particular was written about how well their husband knows them and how strange and wonderful it is to know another human so well. Lewis strews their poem with images that feel capturing without being overwhelming, and their candor about relationships and the silly anxieties that inevitably continue through marriage may be perfect for some inspiration. 

Craig Arnold 

“you have offered them /  to meI am only / giving them back / if only I could show you / how very useless / they are not” - Bird-Understander 
Arnold is very much a poet who wrote about love without ever actually writing about love. This poem in particular is a stunning homage to his partner and the way they communicate, and Arnold’s philosophical musings in all of his work have a deep richness to them that makes you hope to understand what he might be saying. These poems allow you to seek out your own meaning and make the most of the words on the page. Unfortunately, Arnold disappeared in 2009 and so is no longer creating, but his partner also released a book dedicated to their love story that may provide more inspiration as well. 

June Jordan

“I am amazed by peace / It is this possibility of you / asleep / and breathing in the quiet air” - Poem for My Love
Another poet who has passed away but leaves behind a rich body of work to select from is June Jordan. Jordan focuses on poems that are immediate and accessible in their language and their subject matter — short, simple snapshots of a life well-lived. If you are hoping to write wedding vows that focus on the joyful reality you have experienced with your partner rather than musings about the future, Jordan may provide material for you to pull from. She has a wonderful voice and a quiet happiness in her love poetry that speaks to a very present kind of love. 

Seamus Heaney

“Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall” - Scaffolding 
An incredibly well-known poet and widely considered one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, Heaney is far too talented to be left off of this list, even though he passed away in 2013. This poem is a particular favorite, as it speaks to the easy confidence you are afforded in the right relationship, where even when things fall or break down, you can trust in your partner and what you have built together. One of the few poets on this list who continued to write in rhyme, Heaney has a wonderful fullness to his poetry whether he is writing about love or politics. He is certainly one of the greats and can provide immense poetic influence for any occasion. 
Photo by Atul Vinayak on Unsplash
Photo by Atul Vinayak on Unsplash

Jill McDonough 

“I want to give you green and golden fields, alfalfa, wheat / in sunlight, August, three p.m.” - Ardent 
McDonough definitely creates modern poetry that breaks certain standards or expectations, but the results are breathtaking. This poem in particular is a gorgeous homage to a lover and feels vibrant and sensual all at once. McDonough often integrates pop culture or modern slang into her poems so they feel hilariously real and can certainly give an element of fun to your wedding vows. After all, no relationship is perfect, and while you are dedicating your life to another person, you should be able to laugh along the way. McDonough walks the line between innovative and traditional beautifully, never losing her touch on the flow of the poem and masterfully bringing us all along with her. 

F. S. Yousaf

“Our story began with strength, / A foundation built over time” - Stability  
Today, we end this list with F. S. Yousaf, who was looking for a way to propose to his wife, read her letters to him, and wrote the accompanying poetry book Sincerely as a dedication to her and their love story. If you have dedicated that you perhaps don’t want to pull from another poet and want to speak directly from your heart, "Sincerely" and Yousaf’s whole body of work may be a good inspiration point of how to speak directly to your love story in your own words. At the end of the day, your vows are your promises to your partner, and you want to find the words that truly embody how you feel and what you hope for your future together.  We hope that this list was helpful or at least a starting point for inspiration. There are so many different ways to use language to express love, and these ten poets are just the beginning of all of the wonderful authors and writers of 2020 who are constantly finding new ways to redefine love and commitment. Do you have a favorite 2020 poet that you feel embodies the way that you feel love? Let us know about them on any of our socials!