The AVBOB Poetry Competition | The Historical and Present-Day Importance of Love Poems

The Historical and Present-Day Importance of Love Poems

Love is one of the most powerful human emotions, and love poems have been around since time immemorial. In fact, the oldest poem in this genre is over 4000 years old and was discovered in the 19th century in the town of Nippur, located in present-day Southern Iraq. After 70 years spent lying in a Turkish museum drawer, the poem was finally translated as ”Love Song for Shu-Sin”. The poem, etched into a clay tablet, was discovered by archaeologists.

While it was found in Iraq, at the time this poem was written, the town was called Sumer, existing in southern Mesopotamia. Interestingly, Sumerians developed the first written language, utilising specialised symbols to signify different sounds. These special symbols were then pressed into wet clay tablets via an instrument called a stylus.

While the author of “Love Song for Shu-Sin” is not known, it is believed that this love poem was recited by one of the Sumerian King Shu-Sin's brides. King Shu-Sin ruled the nation from 2037 BC to 2029 BC, and the poem was both a love poem and what was known as a “sacred rite”. Each year, the king would have to recite the love song and symbolically pledge his commitment to the goddess Inanna.

The reciting of these sacred poems ensured prosperity and fertility for the year ahead and was thus a good omen for the Sumerian nation. Prior to the discovery of this incredibly preserved piece of poetry, it was commonly believed that the Bible's Song of Solomon was the oldest recorded love poem. While it reflects on the romantic and intimate relationship between a couple, many believe it to signify a greater love between God and his disciples.

Love poems are abundant and exist in a plethora of locations. Other historical favourites include the likes of Rumi, who successfully expanded the Arabic literary canon, and of course, William Shakespeare. The popular lines “shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” are well known by poetry novices and experts alike, speaking to the far reach of poems in today's world. Sonnets are a particularly romantic genre, and Shakespeare wrote 154 of these, celebrating his adoration for a dear friend, a mysterious lady, and Cupid himself.

Celebrating Love Poems with The AVBOB Poetry Project

While these poems have great historical merit and value, they are still incredibly popular today. In fact, the subject of love is one of the most common themes in all artistic expressions, from poetry and literature to music and film. At The AVBOB Poetry Project, we are deeply passionate about all forms of poetry, with love poems being a popular favourite amongst many of our poets. To date, our expansive poetry library has over 3544 poems all about love. Excitingly, these are written in all South Africa's 11 official languages and can be enjoyed by all. Other themes that can be explored include birth, death, and hope. Our 14 049-poem database can be explored here and is ever-expanding.

If you are passionate about poetry and you are ready to write something special for your beloved, it might be worth further exploring the genre and reading some of the greats to get some inspiration. A poem is a fantastic way to show someone what they mean to you and can be used to convey the unique aspects of your relationship. From simple rhyming couplets to sensational sonnets, the possibilities are vast when it comes to poems. While not all of us are born to be Shakespeare, each one of us has a story within our hearts and a message to share.

Poetry is largely about tapping into those emotions and memories and expressing them with authenticity and care. If you are ready to take the leap and write a poem to that someone special, start by writing down all the things that come to mind when you think of them. You can use these phrases and ideas as a springboard to begin your poem. Whatever genre or style you choose, your beloved will undoubtedly feel touched that you have written a poem in their honour. Be sure to look out for future competitions and join our poetry database.

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