Looking for Words of Love Online

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A Valentine's Day poem

Do you find yourself struggling to find the right words to fill the blank Valentine's Day card that you just purchased? When the florists asks what you'd like to say on the card with the bouquet, does an embarrassingly long pause ensue? If you have ever found yourself facing writer's block, straining to express your deepest, most romantic sentiments, Internet data indicates that you are not alone.

While you're struggling to find the appropriate original inscription to convey your feelings, however, Internet users across the U.S. are deciding not to reinvent the wheel, searching instead for existing love poems, perhaps to lift a few lines for expediency's sake. Starting the last week in January, Internet searches for "love poems" begin their yearly climb toward a spike in Valentine's Day week.

So, as Valentine's Day approaches, what kind of love poems are people looking for? If we look at the top love-poem searches, they range from queries for the "best love poem" to the lovelorn request for "sad love poems" and the age-specific "teenage love poems."

Sifting through the list of 700-plus terms that contain "love poems" reveals some interesting trends. As we see with term "teenage love poem," above, lack of originality begins early, with teens appearing to be the prime culprits in word-stealing (though a less cynical man might hope that literary-minded young lovers just want to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning to their sweethearts). Other teen love poem searches include: "love poems for MySpace," and "emo love poems" (referring to "emotional hardcore," a variant of punk rock), like these lines in the aptly named poem "ugh" submitted by a user by the name of colormebroken on the website GreatestJournal.com:

inside this depth of betrayl [sic]
consumed by your fear
deflowered by your hate

We've purchased Valentine's flowers, a Valentine's card, maybe even a Valentine's gift. But let's face it, all this looming recession fear is forcing us to cut costs where we can. One of the most dominant trends throughout the list of top love-poem searches is thriftiness, with searches for "free love poems," "cheap love poems," or "free romantic love poems." Aren't "free" and "romantic" mutually exclusive?

There's a dark side to love poetry: I envision a Goth, angst-ridden, Bell Jar-clutching user who must be behind searches like "dark love poems," and "heartbreaking love poems." And there's also a profoundly lazy side: With a significant number of "short love poems" searches, it seems that many of us not only want to lift pre-written sentiments, but we'd prefer not having to spend a lot of time doing it.

Then there are the terms that just leave you scratching your head. Do Valentine scribes really search for these? Apparently they do. Here's my list of favorite Valentine's Day Searches for 2008 (in order of volume of searches):

1. gangsta love poems
2. dragon love poems
3. break-up love poems
4. heartbreaking love poems
5. cheesy love poems
6. dirty love poems
7. one-sided love poems
8. thug love poems
9. love-hate poems
10. jail love poems

With all the variations and the specific nature of people's love-poem searches, it appears that the Internet searcher is unwilling to settle for a less-than-perfect quote. But with all that effort, and considering the potential reaction of your Valentine to a "gangsta" or a "love-hate" poem, perhaps a simple "I love you, happy Valentine's Day" would be a better alternative.

Bill Tancer is general manager of global research at Hitwise