Classic’s Love Poems are an illustrated ode to romance

Three illustrators were commissioned to reimagine works ranging from a set of thousand-year-old Japanese love poems through to Shakespeare’s heartbreaking sonnets. We look at how the series came to life

As the bleakness of January subsides and the days gradually begin to get longer, the advent of February brings with it one of the most divisive dates in the marketing calendar: Valentine’s Day. For those that do celebrate the occasion, and are hoping to avoid the usual Valentine’s present tat, Vintage Classics is offering up three editions of some of the most sensual, heartbreaking and romantic poetry ever written.

“We wanted to celebrate some of the best love poetry from around the world and throughout time – to create beautiful editions, not just for Valentine’s Day but for all time,” says Vintage creative director, Suzanne Dean. The series spans thousand-year-old Japanese love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu; Chilean Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda’s erotic masterwork, which turns 100 next year; and, of course, Shakespeare’s incomparable Sonnets. Each edition is introduced by a contemporary poet, who brings their own readings to the poems.

Dean’s brief was to position classic love poetry in an accessible, appealing way for modern readers. “The poems in this series are universal, they span continents and centuries but all of them speak directly to readers today of love, lust and longing. The challenge was to capture the variety of poetry contained within these collections whilst linking the books together in a strong visual way,” she says.

The Ink Dark Moon by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, illustration: Kazuko Nomoto
Vintage Love PoemsThe Ink Dark Moon by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, illustration: Kazuko Nomoto

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