“The alternations between love and its denial, suffering and denial of suffering … constitute the most essential and ubiquitous structural feature of the human heart,”philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in contemplating how we know we love somebody. How unsurprising then, and how inescapably human, that we should try to steady ourselves through these oscillations — violent, beautiful, disorienting — on the armature of language, on poetry’s precision of sentiment.
To curate a corpus of poems that stretch across love’s vast spectrum of joy and suffering with resonance that edges on the universal is a Herculean task, but that is what editors Jessica Strand and Leslie Jonath have accomplished in Love Found: 50 Classic Poems of Desire, Longing, and Devotion ( — a collection plumbing the depths of the commonest human experience in the most uncommon and arresting of verses, alongside vibrant illustrations by artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Among the fifty poets, who span an impressive range of epochs, sensibilities, and cultural backgrounds, are Pablo Neruda, Adrienne Rich, Langston Hughes, Mark Strand, Wis?awa Szymborska, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. (I was especially delighted to find Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love,” one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever encountered, among the selections.)