Looking for the Perfect Wedding Poem
My friends are having a public marriage ceremony soon, and they’ve asked for help choosing a poem for their special day. I’ve put forward several options already, but I’m curious what suggestions the Harriet community might have.
The couple married in a small civil ceremony on June 17th, during the short window before the passage of Prop 8. The forthcoming event will be their public, religious ceremony, a chance for friends and family to witness their vows. Given the mixture of solemnity and celebration such an occasion will foster, we all think poetry can play a special role.
One poem I’ve suggested is “Crossing Over” by William Meredith. The poem begins:
That’s what love is like. The whole river
is melting. We skim along in great peril,
having to move faster than ice goes under
and still find foothold in the soft flow.
We are one another’s flow. Each displaces the weight
of his own need…
Another possibility is “To Be in Love” by Gwendolyn Brooks. I can't get this program to honor Brooks' formatting, but poem begins with these words:
To be in love
Is to touch things with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
Through his eyes.
A Cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or light spring weather…
Each of these poems speaks to the highs and lows of a life lived in love. The poems are hopeful and romantic, but not hopelessly romantic. They are realistic, and so reflect the realism of a couple who’ve been together nearly 10 years and whose commitment is under legal and cultural fire every day.
I’ve also recommended sections of Mark McMorris’ long epithalamion , “The Blaze of Poui”:
Tell me in short, Love, what is a wedding?
A wedding is at once a crowded place
and a private room, packed with trusts
and empty of all but the heart’s letters…
A wedding is earth and water
and a species of irreducible light
and the flat belly of a harbor
and a mango about to ripen and fall into gravity’s caress
and the waves subsiding
and resuming their concerto in a minor key
and the rush hour canceled by the stun of auspicious beginnings…
It appears that McMorris enjoyed writing this poem. It’s full of exciting variety in terms of tone and tempo, the texture of its language, detail. The poem’s variety speaks to the exciting changes a couple can look forward to experiencing during their lives together.
I’ve enjoyed asking my poet friends what they would have read if they were planning their weddings again. Patrick Donnelly suggested another William Meredith poem, "Accidents of Birth," as well as Jack Gilbert's "What Is There To Say?" Dan Bellm, suggested “Looking at Each Other" from Muriel Rukeyser's book Breaking Open.
Now, I’m curious to know what you would suggest.
Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Trophic...