Whether you believe in “Hallmark Card” holidays like Valentine’s Day or not, the month of February, also known as the Month of Love, is a good time to think about someone you love, either alive or passed.
But instead of sending flowers or giving chocolate, in addition to a phone or Zoom call, you might wish to consider writing a letter or poem.
If the person is deceased, even though it’s not possible to send the letter, there’s nothing stopping you from writing it. My father passed away more than 30 years ago, and I always use this month as an excuse to write to him and tell him how much I love and miss him.
I also thank him for teaching me how to love and follow my heart. My letter usually includes tidbits and highlights about my life, my children, and my grandchildren.
For creative inspiration, you might consider reading some love letters and poems by prominent writers. The poetry of the late Leonard Cohen is always inspiring, especially his poetry in Book of Longing.
More recently, for spiritual inspiration and to surround myself with love, I’ve been reading the works of the Sufi poet Rumi, and I’ve been mesmerized by his words and sentiments. There are numerous translations of Rumi’s work, but I’ve found that those by Coleman Barks are the most powerful and compelling.
As Barks says in his introduction to The Essential Rumi, the poems “are food and drink, nourishment for the part that is hungry for what they give. Call it soul.” Barks goes on to say that Rumi’s poems help us feel what living in “the ruins feels like . . . heartbroken, wandering, wordless, lost, and ecstatic for no reason. It’s the psychic space his poems inhabit.”
These feelings are what many of us experience now and then, which is why Rumi’s poems have resonated with me and so many others over the years. They fill us up when we’re empty and illuminate all that is wonderful when we feel good.
Barks’s introduction shared a lot about Rumi, his history, and his life. This timeless poet was born in Balkh (in what is now northern Afghanistan) on September 30, 1207.
As a teenager, he was identified as a great spirit, and in his 30s he met poet Shams Tabriz, with whom he shared many mystical conversations, resulting in a strong and magical friendship that inspired and informed Rumi’s own poetry.
Rumi died in 1273, and on his tomb is the inscription: “Do not look for him here, but rather in the hearts of those who love him.” For many, Rumi’s poems deepen their overall sense of faith and hope. He was a wonderful soul and spiritual teacher.
As Barks says, “He shows us glory. He wants us to be more alive, to wake up . . . he wants us to see our beauty in the mirror and in each other.”
Rumi’s poems in their original form have no Persian titles. Barks says this is because “they are works in progress in a life in progress, oceanic living tissue always reconfiguring itself”; however, for the purposes of his book, Barks assigned titles for each poem to facilitate accessibility.
It’s not easy choosing the Rumi love poem I like best – I simply adore all of them – but here’s an excerpt from one of my favorites, “Buoyancy,” which coincides with February, the Month of Love:
Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.
I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.
I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?
A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.
I’ve always been inspired to write love poems for my own keeping and also to my loved ones. In 2014, my poetry collection, Lustwas published. It celebrates intimacy through my eyes as I turned 60. My poems address many universal themes, including loneliness, longing, lust, sexual ecstasy and fantasies as I take the reader on a journey through private moments.
Happy Month of Love to all of you!
How do you celebrate the Month of Love? Is it special somehow? Have you written a love letter to someone who has passed? Is love poetry something you enjoy reading or writing?