A Victorian Valentine

For my 9-5 job, I work for our town’s department of museums on the education team. Most of what we do is to take education programs out to all of the schools in our county, with a different theme each month.

For the first half of February, we are doing lessons about Victorian Valentines. Let me tell you, the Victorians knew how to bare their hearts, with beautiful words and art. And surprisingly, men were just as likely as women, if not more, to create intricate, hand-made Valentines and fill them with verses and sentiments they’d composed themselves. If we still did Valentine’s Day like this, instead of Hallmark cards and prepackaged boxes of chocolates, I might get more on board with the holiday!

One of the examples we created to show students is called a “pocket purse.” It’s a square piece of paper, folded into a smaller square, and the recipient opens it in stages. You can see in my pictures below.


As I was looking at this example, I realized there was an opportunity for a really intricate poem. Around the edges of the fully unfolded Valentine, there are twelve spaces, three along each side. But when the Valentine is only partially unfolded, only four of those twelve spaces are visible. I thought to myself, What if I write a poem where these four lines (2, 5, 8, and 11) formed an independent, coherent poem, but when unfolded, they fit perfectly into a twelve-line poem?

Thus was born my Valentines’ Writing Challenge for myself, and I’m really proud to say that I managed to make it work! It’s not great…I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a poet. But it was quite satisfying to work it out, and I felt very Victorian because you know a hundred and twenty years ago, men and women alike were definitely taking the time to do silly, complex things like this!


Below is the poem in its entirety. I started by making a simple table and highlighting Lines 2, 5, 8, and 11. I wrote that short poem first, and then I worked at fitting those lines into the larger poem. It was actually really fun! And what was even more fun is that I let the budding romance in my novel, which is set a little past the Victorian period, inspire my words. You never know…maybe this little token of love will even show up in its pages!

ValentinePoem (1)

I’ve posted this a few days before Valentine’s Day so you’ll have the chance to give it a try. Take a little extra time this year to tell your Valentine, or someone special in your life, how much they mean to you, in your own words and art. (Here’s the link to make the folded pocket purse!) And if you do, please share your creations in the comments! I would love to see them.

Happy Hearts Day!


3 thoughts on “A Victorian Valentine

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