It is impossible for any one article to claim the title of definitive best love poems of all time. Poetry is very personal, individual to any given person. All any article can hope to do is give guidance to some of the best poetry written by women and hope that others will agree, or at least begin a conversation about their personal favourites. Judging by how often these women are returned in searches for poetry by women, they surely have to be classed amongst the best.
1 - Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (1806 - 1861) - Elizabeth was a member of the British Romantic Movement, so perhaps it is fitting that she come first when recalling love poetry. Elizabeth was a sickly soul, suffering with spinal and lung complaints which would keep her on morphine all her life. She spent her time educating herself and writing. Her romantic life was the stuff of romance novels. She met and fell in love with Robert Browning who was six years younger than her. Her father was fanatically opposed to his children being married, and the couple eventually were forced to elope, settling in Florence, Italy, where they had a son. Her father never spoke to her again. During the long months before they were married, Elizabeth and Robert exchanged 574 letters and her poem, 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways' (Sonnet 43) has become a classic piece of love poetry, used by generations to express their adoration for a lover.
2 - Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963) - Plath is another female poet with romantic turmoil, and ultimately tragedy, at the centre of her life. When Plath moved to study in England she met the British poet, Ted Hughes. Within months , in June 1956, they were married, but it was never going to be a conventional marriage, a match between two poets with highly charged emotions was perhaps destined for disaster. The couple had two children, but Hughes was said to be unfaithful. Tales of violence and abuse abounded and Hughes eventually left Plath for another woman in 1962. Although seriously depressed, Plath went on to write her most famous work, Ariel, but shortly after, committed suicide via the gas oven in her home. Two works of hers stand out in the category of love poems, 'Love Letter' with its typically Plath imagery, and 'Mad Girl's Love Song' from which come the fabulous lines 'I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed, And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane'.
3 - Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) - For poems of unrequited love, it is easy to turn to Emily Dickinson. Although she was a sheltered soul, there were certainly people who came in and out of her life who may have been the inspiration for much of her love poetry. Emily lead a lonely and isolated existence, but she did keep up a variety of correspondence, and her work shows traces of some of her inspiration. Worthy of note is the fact that she was a fan of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. For those who have ever counted the moments until a lover is seen again, perhaps Emily's poem 'If You Were Coming in the Fall' is most suited.
4 - Maya Angelou (1928 - present) - One of the most influential women of the present era, Maya Angelou is beloved by women of every colour, creed and nationality. Perhaps the final words of the biography at her official site say all that is needed - 'Dr. Angelou’s words and actions continue to stir our souls, energize our bodies, liberate our minds, and heal our hearts'. Her touch is exquisite when she writes of love and two of her best are 'Remembrance' ('On the occasion, you press above me, glowing, spouting readiness, mystery rapes my reason') and 'Touched by an Angel' ('Love arrives and in its train come ecstasies').
5 - Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894) - Christina was the sister of the famous poet and painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and like him, she showed a great talent for writing. Although best known for her ballads and the mystic quality of her lyrics, Christina had a penchant for writing poetry about unhappy love. Christina was not lucky in love and perhaps this accounted for some of her pessimism, but for any who have ever missed an opportunity on the field of love her poem, 'The First Day' might well strike a chord. 'It seemed to mean so little, meant so much! If only now I could recall that touch, First touch of hand in hand- Did one but know!'
There are many women poets and almost all cover the subject of love at some point during their careers, but these women probably stand tall amongst the best of the best when it comes to writing about that universal subject: Love.