Relationships Poems

Poems can provide insight into our relationships and how we deal with relationships between each other. These poems focus on relationships between family, friends, and love.


by Sir Walter Scott

‘Lochinvar’ is a ballad about a young and courageous knight who saves his beloved, the fair lady Ellen, from marrying another man.

'Lochinvar' is a very interesting poem from the perspective of relationships. Every character and object in the poem either compliments or contrasts with the hero, Lochinvar. Underneath the poem’s heartwarming love story is an interesting satire on relations between Scotland and England in the 16th century. Lochinvar is a Scot, while Ellen is presumably English, and thus, they cannot marry. Behind the poem is also a question of morality, as Lochinvar, like the Scottish raiders of the period, steals something that is not his in the poem.


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

This Jean Bleakney verse revolves around motherhood and a mother-children relationship.

an afternoon nap

by Arthur Yap

‘an afternoon nap’ by Arthur Yap explores the lacunae in the modern education system and how it results in anxiety and stress in students.

In 'an afternoon nap,' Yap showcases how a mother-son relationship is strained due to constant pressure of betterment, be it in academics or in extra-curricular activities.

The Portrait

by Stanley Kunitz

‘The Portrait’ by Stanley Kunitz is a sad poem about the speaker’s ill-fated attempt to learn more about their deceased father.

This poem focuses on the effects of trauma between three members of a family. The suicide of the father severs both the mother and speaker's relationship quite literally, but it also leads to the mother's emotional and detachment. Not only is the speaker's father dead before their born but they also have to grow up without ever truly learning about them outside their mother's anger. Which in turn ends up poisoning the relationship between mother and child when she takes out her latent rage on them.

My Grandmother’s Houses

by Jackie Kay

‘My Grandmother’s Houses’ by Jackie Kay is a thoughtful recollection of youth and a young speaker’s relationship with her eccentric grandmother, who is forced to move homes.

A deeply intimate portrayal of a complex relationship, 'My Grandmother's Houses' mediates on the nature of family and attachment to place.

Hymn to Aphrodite

by Sappho

The ‘Hymn to Aphrodite’ by Sappho is an ancient lyric in which Sappho begs for Aphrodite’s help in managing her turbulent love life.

The 'Hymn to Aphrodite' offers a unique perspective on what is likely a lesbian relationship, and it also explores the relationship that Sappho has with the goddess of love. Sappho looks at Aphrodite as a mothering spirit who sees mortal love as a trifle or game. On the other hand, Sapphosees her love life as a grave matter, even though she always ends up hurt in the end.

Death of a Young Woman

by Gillian Clarke

Explore ‘Death of a Young Woman,’ where Clarke depicts how a loved one’s death lets a person free from their inward, endless suffering.

This Gillian Clarke poem deals with the theme of relationships and how a woman's death creates a hollow space in her loved one's heart.

Love Poem

by Gregory Orr

‘Love Poem’ by Gregory Orr is a short poem about a speaker’s imaginative telling of asking for someone’s phone number.

Since the poem deals with the possible beginnings of a relationship, it's also an important theme of the poem.

Bloody Men

by Wendy Cope

‘Bloody Men’ by Wendy Cope is a short, contemporary poem by a British award-winning author. It uses a metaphor to compare men to buses.

Relationships are the primary theme of this short poem, specifically, how they're similar to waiting for a bus.

The Nightingale

by Philip Sidney

‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.

The way Sidney portrayed the relationships between the characters, is incredible. He also throws them among the readers to criticise and compares his agony with the tragedy in Philomela's life. Sidney opens up about his unrequited love relationship and a few other relationships.

My True Love Hath My Heart

by Philip Sidney

‘My True Love Hath My Heart’ by Sir Philip Sidney is a Shakespearean sonnet. It captures the intensity and depth of two people who experience love at first sight.

Much of the poem is devoted to establishing a deep connection created between two people who have newly fallen in love. The metaphor of physically giving your heart to someone is central to the poem’s theme and offers an example of how two people should regard their love for one another.

Winter Stars

by Larry Levis

‘Winter Stars’ by Larry Levis tries to reconcile the estranged relationship between a son and their dying father.

The poem is the speaker's attempt to speak one last time to ther father. An expression of both their inability to understand one another and regret over their lack of communication over the decades. In the end, the speaker realizes their relationship might've been different had they talked more.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by Emily Dickinson

‘Tell the truth but tell it slant’ by Emily Dickinson is one of Dickinson’s best-loved poems. It explores an unknown “truth” that readers must interpret in their own way.

This poem suggests the correct way to deal with troubling truths, specifically in relationships.

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

‘My Mother Would Be a Falconress’ by Robert Duncan explores a son and mother’s relationship through the lens of a falcon breaking free from his handler.

The speaker's relationship with his mother, coded in simile and metaphor, is incredibly complex, but Duncan does an amazing job capturing the complexity, using compressed language and repetition to express what words cannot. The figurative language in this poem, however, does all the heavy lifting, as it captures the conflict between mother and son very well.

“Why did you come” (#1 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

‘Why did you come’ by Hilda Doolittle is a free-verse poem about love, self-criticism, aging, and the human inability to control judgments and desires.

"Why did you come" takes an interesting look at how people perceive relationships between older women and younger men. It also offers insight into some of the emotions that come up when someone is attracted to someone despite not wanting to engage in a romance. It isn't a romantic poem, but it does address many of the negative feelings that arise when one falls in love.

To My Brother

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

‘To My Brother’ by Lorna Dee Cervantes captures the intense bittersweetness of remembering a childhood checkered by both strife and happiness.

The only real mention of the speaker's brother is in the title but clearly the poem is addressed to the. In a lot of ways, the poem is a "thank you" to their sibling for just being there with them through all these moments. An ode to their shared misery and far-fetched dreams of escape.


by Marilyn Nelson

‘Star-Fix’ by Marilyn Nelson is a poem that lionizes the noble role of the navigator onboard an aircraft.

The relationship the speaker describes between the navigator and their crew is unique because it lacks any racist overtones. As a result, the speaker implies that because of the navigator's skill and importance, he's not judged based on his skin color but only on his abilities. Nelson presents this relationship as a necessary dynamic not just for the crew of the aircraft, but society as a whole.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

by Lewis Carroll

‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ is a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll. It was included in his 1871 novel ‘Through the Looking-Glass.’

The relationship between the carpenter, walrus, and oysters is interesting. It is based on deception and manipulation, which seems out of place (in a very thought-provoking way) within one of Carroll's best-known nonsense poems.

To a Dead Friend

by Langston Hughes

‘To a Dead Friend’ by Langston Hughes is a depressing poem about the ways death can permanently alter one’s ability to see or feel joy.

The relationship between the speaker and their dead friend is also another vital piece of the poem. Hughes uses the poem to reveal the ways in which the death of another can move us so powerfully, be it towards irreparable sadness or intense hate. The poem highlights the unseen ways we are all so intimately connected and fail to realize it until it's too late.

Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea

by Sylvia Plath

‘Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea’ by Sylvia Plath explores imagination. Reality, the speaker realizes, doesn’t always live up to what one imagined.

The poem touches on the theme of human relationships, highlighting the feelings of loneliness and the impossibility of extrapolating from the present moment.

“Take me anywhere” (from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

In “Take me anywhere, anywhere;” by Hilda Doolittle, the poet-speaker addresses a lover, expressing the way in which she takes refuge in their affection.

While this poem is about relationships, it's more of an exploration of unhealthy relationship dynamics. Hilda Dolittle seems to have a codependent attachment to her lovers, putting all of herself into love and saving nothing for herself. She yearns to be fully accepted by her lover, but it seems that she has met rejection time and time again.

“Venice — Venus?” (#5 from Hermetic Definition: ‘Red Rose and a Beggar’)

by Hilda Doolittle

“Venice — Venus?” by Hilda Doolittle is an insightful poem about Doolittle’s reasons for writing despite critiques. Doolittle reveals that her ultimate source of inspiration is divine.

Using critiques from her past lovers as fuel for her poem, Doolittle explains that she is forced to write about love because that is what Venus compels her to do. Thus, Doolittle believes that the only poetic inspiration she gets is from her relationships and from the goddess of love, Venus.

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

In 'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,' the speaker cannot stop falling in love, and it seems that the speaker often falls in love (or lust) with many people at one time. This troubling infatuation with love seems to be beyond the speaker's control, causing them heartbreak and concern. As such, they seem to dislike romantic relationships.


by Léonie Adams

Apostate’ by Léonie Adams describes the freedom a speaker sees in the joyful stars and how she aches to live as they do. 

While the poem does not focus specifically on romantic relationships, it does explore the relationship between the speaker and God, and the impact that this relationship has on the speaker's sense of self and her place in the world. The poem offers a nuanced and complex exploration of the nature of relationships, both personal and spiritual.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

by Emily Dickinson

‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?’ by Emily Dickinson reflects the poet’s emotions. It reveals her disdain for publicity and her preference for privacy.

The speaker describes a specific kind of relationship in this poem. She connects to another person, metaphorically, in their shared interest to stay out of the spotlight.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

by Ogden Nash

‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ by Ogden Nash is a ballad about a young girl, Belinda, and her four pets, one of whom is a cowardly dragon named Custard.

The poem explores the relationship between Belinda and her pets, including her little pet dragon, Custard. Despite Custard's initial cowardice, Belinda and her other pets continue to love and include him in their adventures.


by Hugo Williams

‘Toilet’ by Hugo Williams is a humorous poem that describes a man’s struggles to speak to a beautiful woman on a train.

The speaker imagines a relationship with the woman on the train that doesn't exist in this poem. He sees something playing out between them that doesn't feel at all realistic.

Oh Do Not Wanton with Those Eyes

by Ben Jonson

‘Oh Do Not Wanton with Those Eyes’ by Ben Jonson is a short, interesting poem in which one person describes the effect another person’s eyes have on them. They suggest this person should avoid showing certain emotions, so they aren’t impacted.

There is clearly a relationship of sorts between the speaker and the listener in this Ben Jonson poem. It seems likely that the speaker loves the person to whom he is directing his words because of the way he feels he'd be emotionally impacted by seeing the other person sad or angry.

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