10 Touching Poems about Heartbreak 

On this list, readers can explore 10 of the best poems written about heartbreak. The poets take various approaches to this important, and nearly universal, subject matter.

Best Heartbreak Poems Visual Representation

Some writers featured below suggest that the heartbroken should forget their past lovers while others spend the lines of their poems exploring the intricacies of depression and grief. No matter one’s experience in relationships, there is a poem on this list that should feel relatable.

Best Heartbreak Poems


Because I Liked You Better by A.E. Housman

‘Because I Liked You Better’ went unpublished during the poet’s lifetime but has since become well-known among lovers of Housman’s work. It is suggestive of the poet’s sexuality if one reads the lines as coming from the poet’s own perspective.

The speaker describes following his lover’s directive—to put him out of his mind and carry on with his life. This is a common theme in heartbreak poems, but it is harder to follow the advice than to read it. Here are a few of the best lines: 

Because I liked you better

Than suits a man to say,

It irked you, and I promised

To throw the thought away.

Discover the poetry from A.E. Housman.

Sonnet 87 by William Shakespeare

In this well-known “Fair Youth” sonnet, the poet addresses a young man that he loves. He tells the man that he means a lot to him, but, at the same time, he knows, due to the young man’s actions, that their relationship is not going to be what it could’ve been. The youth has realized that he is worth much more than he previously thought. Here are a few lines: 

Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing,

And like enough thou know’st thy estimate.

The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;

My bonds in thee are all determinate.

Explore more William Shakespeare poems.

Passion by Kathleen Raine 

‘Passion’ is an eight-stanza poem about heartbreak written in the first person. The speaker describes the feelings of heartbreak one experiences after someone they love turns them down. One has to choose to move on and rebuild their life. If they don’t, they’ll never live as happily as they could’ve. Here are a few lines: 

Full of desire I lay, the sky wounding me,

Each cloud a ship without me sailing, each tree

Possessing what my soul lacked, tranquillity.

Read more Kathleen Raine poems

I Am Not Yours by Sarah Teasdale

In this lovely poem, Teasdale addresses someone who claims to love her or her speaker. She tells them that she is not theirs. The speaker takes control of this relationship, telling them that she does not want to be loved in the way that they seem to want to love her. Here are a few lines: 

Yet I am I, who long to be

Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love — put out

My senses, leave me deaf and blind […]

Explore more Sarah Teasdale poetry.

Never Give All the Heart by W.B. Yeats

This lesser-read W.B. Yeats poem is a thoughtful piece that’s suited to someone experiencing heartbreak. It addresses how purposeless it can feel to give one’s heart to another person, only to have it ripped out. Women, the speaker states, “Have given their hearts up to the play.” The speaker warns against losing oneself to love with the following lines: 

Never give all the heart, for love

Will hardly seem worth thinking of

To passionate women if it seem

Certain, and they never dream

That it fades out from kiss to kiss […]

Read more William Butler Yeats poems.

Love is Not All by Edna St. Vincent Millay 

‘Love is Not All’  is also referred to as ‘Sonnet XXX.’ It is a traditional Shakespearean sonnet with fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. The poem was first published in Collected Poems in 1931 and remained one of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s most popular works. 

The piece explores the ways that human beings suffer for love, as one might suffer after a heartbreak. She notes that love is not “all.” There are many ways that it cannot help someone make it through life. It does not provide food, shelter, water, or sleep. She continues on to write about how love cannot cure disease “nor set the fractured bone.” Here are a few more lines: 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 

And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 

Discover more Edna St. Vincent Millay poems

Resignation by Nikki Giovanni 

‘Resignation’ by Nikki Giovanni is another love poem. Unlike the other pieces on this list, the poem is directed to the speaker’s child. It begins with the phrase “I love you” and continues on, examining why that emotion exists. Here are a few lines:

I love you

because the Earth turns round the sun

because the North wind blows north

sometimes

because the Pope is Catholic

Love, the poet states, is inescapable. It exists because it exists. 

Read more Nikki Giovanni poems

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder by A.E. Housman

This short poem describes a speaker waiting for “him,” a person they care about. They suggest that if they’d done a few things differently, their entire life would’ve changed. Here are two lines from the poem: 

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?

He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.

Discover the poetry from A.E. Housman.

Mariana by Alfred Lord Tennyson 

Mariana’ is a famous love poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It was published in 1830 and was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. It describes characters from the poem, like Mariana and Angelo. The latter promised to marry the former, and Mariana spends the lines of the poem exploring what her life could’ve been and is now: 

With blackest moss the flower-plots

Were thickly crusted, one and all:

The rusted nails fell from the knots

That held the pear to the gable-wall.

Read more of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems.

Never seek to tell thy love by William Blake 

Never seek to tell thy love’ describes why in some cases, one should not express their emotions to the person they love. It’s better to suffer in silence rather than risk being rejected. It’s possible that they won’t be reciprocated when these feelings are shared. That is going to be far more painful than keeping them to themselves. Here are a few of the best lines: 

Never seek to tell thy love

Love that never told can be

For the gentle wind does move

Silently invisibly

Read more poetry from William Blake.

FAQs 

What is a heartbreak poem?

A heartbreak poem is a piece that was written about the subject of heartbreak. It could be written with the intention of soothing someone that the poet knows or with allowing the poet a creative outlet to express their deep emotions.

How to write a heartbreak poem? 

The best way to write a heartbreak poem is to spend a few moments writing down one’s thoughts surrounding the subject. What have you felt when you’ve experienced heartbreak? Consider what images come to mind, where you were when you felt that way, and what you would tell your past self. 

What is the saddest love poem ever written?

Some of the saddest love poems ever written include Mad Girl’s Love Songby Sylvia Plath, Sonnet 87by William Shakespeare, ‘Mariana’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and He would not stay for me, and who can wonderby A. E. Housman. 

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Best Heartbreak Poems Visual Representation
Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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