Broken hearts and lost loves are common topics, and they have been discussed throughout the ages. In fact, early writings about divorce and separation date back thousands of years.
By channeling their pain into creativity, some of the world’s most influential writers have developed books of poetry that explain their divorces and broken hearts in phenomenal detail. Excerpts from these collections are great ways to understand their pain, but they are also immortalized documents that prove you are not alone.
The Best Divorce Poems
Below are some of the most astounding excerpts of poetry from individuals who have gone through a divorce and felt the pain of losing a loved one. Some have worked to build themselves a new life as a single person.
1. “Modern Love” by George Meredith
Until 1858, English poet George Meredith was married to Mary Ellen Meredith. Over time, their marriage began to deteriorate at an astounding rate. This disintegration eventually led to Mary Ellen running away with an artist named Henry Wallis.
Unfortunately, time did not heal George Meredith’s wounds. He never went on to forgive his estranged wife. Instead, he published a series of poems known as Modern Love. They show how he tried to understand what drove her to leave him:
By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
We’re moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.
2. “The Break Away” by Anne Sexton
American poet Anne Sexton takes a brutally honest approach to the idea of divorce, and this particular piece is incredibly deep and tortured. Although it was written in 1973, it is still very current. The entire poem is based on the true story of a woman who suffered total destruction at the hands of her spouse.
Your daisies have come
on the day of my divorce.
They arrive like round yellow fish,
sucking with love at the coral of our love.
Yet they wait,
in their short time,
like little utero half-borns,
half killed, thin and bone soft.
They breathe the air that stands
for twenty-five illicit days,
the sun crawling inside the sheets,
the moon spinning like a tornado
in the washbowl,
and we orchestrated them both,
calling ourselves TWO CAMP DIRECTORS.
There was a song, our song on your cassette,
that played over and over
and baptised the prodigals.
It spoke the unspeakable,
as the rain will on an attic roof,
letting the animal join its soul
as we kneeled before a miracle--
forgetting its knife.
3. Quote by Robert Brault
Robert Brault is an author from the United States, who is renowned for his thought-provoking quotes. His words have become incredibly popular on social media and have helped millions because they can guide you through a journey of self-discovery and understanding. You will find his words to be comforting and truthful, as they reveal how we hide our true selves from the people we love.
This particular quote is particularly poignant for people going through a divorce, as it explains how you will find it much easier to overcome heartbreak if you simply stop looking for answers where you may never find any. At times, divorce is something that someone cannot apologize for, and although you may find yourself fighting tooth and nail to garner an apology from your ex-spouse, a divorce might have been what they wanted. By moving on, you can begin focusing on yourself.
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”
4. “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda
If You Forget Me is one of the most popular pieces by Pablo Neruda, as there is some speculation around when and why it was written. Some circles believe that he wrote it to his home country of Chile while he was exiled in 1952, whereas others believe it was written for a lover.
After a divorce, it can be difficult to let go of a loved one, whether the decision was mutual or not. After spending the majority of your adult life in a relationship with your ex-spouse, there will always be feelings of love, though they will change over time. This poem is an iconic piece about lost love, but it simultaneously shows that you can move on and become strong again.
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
5. Quote by W.D. Snodgrass
American author W.D. Snodgrass won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960. He has written some incredible pieces, which have influenced some of the biggest names in poetry, including a few on this list. This particular quote is perfect for people suffering through a divorce, as it can give you hope and show you that there can be a future without your ex-spouse.
The moment that you decide that it is time to let go of your past and focus on your future is when you will realize your true potential. There is no point in drowning because of what happened. Instead, focus on what can and will happen.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
6. “Why Should a Foolish Marriage Vow” by John Dryden
For people who are trying to decide whether divorce is right for them, this poem is the perfect guide. Written by English poet John Dryden in the 17th century, this poem tackles the subject of divorce quite plainly by asking one simple question: Why should a single vow from a weak marriage determine the person you should be with for the rest of your life?
In other words, if you find that your marriage is falling apart and making you unhappy, perhaps it is time to consider a change.
Why should a foolish marriage vow,
Which long ago was made,
Oblige us to each other now
When passion is decay’d?
We loved, and we loved, as long as we could,
Till our love was loved out in us both:
But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
‘Twas pleasure first made it an oath.
If I have pleasures for a friend,
And farther love in store,
What wrong has he whose joys did end,
And who could give no more?
‘Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
Or that I should bar him of another:
For all we can gain is to give ourselves pain,
When neither can hinder the other.
7. “This Was Once a Love Poem” by Jane Hirshfield
We all know that love can be a rollercoaster, which is a recurring theme throughout this poem. In 2001, American poet Jane Hirshfield brought readers through a tumultuous journey of love, loss, and hope for the possible rebirth of love. All of these emotions are incredibly common for someone going through a divorce, and this excerpt can give you something to relate to during your darkest days.
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.
It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.
8. “Man and Wife” by Robert Lowell
Taken from the Life Studies book of poems, “Man and Wife” focuses on the personal tragedy one feels after going through a difficult relationship or a divorce. Written in 1959, it truly is an introspective piece, as American poet Robert Lowell is comparing the person that his wife is now to the person she was before they decided to get married.
When deciding whether divorce is right for you, it is important to make this same comparison. Is your marriage worth fighting for? Is the person you married still buried deep inside your spouse?
Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed;
the rising sun in war paint dyes us red;
in broad daylight her gilded bed-posts shine,
abandoned, almost Dionysian.
At last the trees are green on Marlborough Street,
blossoms on our magnolia ignite
the morning with their murderous five day's white.
All night I've held your hand,
as if you had
a fourth time faced the kingdom of the mad -
its hackneyed speech, its homicidal eye -
and dragged me home alive. . . . Oh my Petite,
clearest of all God's creatures, still all air and nerve.
9. Quote by Marianne Williamson
American writer Marianne Williamson is known for her motivational speeches and self-help novels for women, which is why this particular quote perfectly adapts to divorce and the loss of love.
Most women find that it can be difficult to outshine their spouses, as they are constantly working towards supporting them throughout their endeavors. It is important that women also consider how powerful they could be if they were to focus on themselves or find a man that is willing to support their hopes and dreams.
The longer you are stuck in a marriage with a husband that always steals your thunder, the less successful and fulfilled you will feel.
“She will not be able to fulfill her function if she remains with a man who derides her glory.”
10. Quote by Mitch Albom
Saying goodbye to a marriage can feel like the end of an era, and in many cases, it is. Accepting the fact that your marriage is over can be incredibly difficult, which is why many divorcees slip into bouts of depression. It can be easy to get swept away in your negative emotions. Before you entirely lose yourself, it is important to remember that this time could be the beginning of an era, even if it does not feel like it is right now.
“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”
Poetry is a phenomenal way to explore your feelings and desires after a divorce. With the help of these great examples about how losing love has affected writers throughout history, they give you some honest, brutal truths to relate to.