The Language of Making Love
It time again for the Literary Review’s bad sex writing awards. These awards are meant to discourage those with literary aspersions from adding graphic descriptions of sex to their work, since such descriptions have a tendency to come across as awkward and poorly written and not even a tiny bit sexy. The truth is, while there are a few writers who can turn a prose description of sex into something erotic, sexual tastes are too personal for straight descriptions to work most of the time. (Case in point: my mom keeps sending me these books in which the heros always go down on the heroine, get her off, and then go in for one or two quick thrusts of penis-in-vagina before the whole thing’s done. I’m sure that works beautifully for the author, but it ain’t how I’d ever want sex to go.) In truth, erotic writing works best when it paints a vague, sensual impression that draws on the reader’s own experiences and desires. Prose isn’t terribly well suited to this, but erotic poetry, when well done, can evoke all the beauty and pleasure of sex without resorting to clinical descriptions or forced euphemisms like “throbbing manhood.” Indeed, poetry has been the official language of physical love for as long as people have been writing. Even the bible has an entire chapter devoted to what is essentially an extended erotic poem, a bit of human passion too intense to be excised from a book otherwise focused on humanity’s relationship with religion.
So, since it’s a holiday weekend and I’m feeling lazy, in lieu of a full column, here are some poems to get your blood running again after the turkey induced stupor of Thanksgiving dinner (presented primarily as links to avoid any issues with copyright). Feel free to add further suggested reading in the comments/
She being brand new
by e e cummings
Sonnet II from Second April
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
by C. P. Cavafy
by May Swenson
n w (click number 4 and the top of the page, halfway down)
by e e no-seriously-sex-was-dude’s-favorite-topic cummings
by Ho Xuan Huong
Are you seventeen or eighteen?
Let me cherish you by all means.
Thin or thick you display a triangle, and
Large or small I hold you with one hand.
The more it is hot the fresher you will submit,
Not enough love at night, daytime will make it.
Your cheeks are rose pink and give you grace,
Lords and kings love you because of your face.
Like a sweet-apple
on the tip
of the topmost branch.
Forgotten by pickers.
they couldn’t reach it.
(and honorable mention to Ruth Herschberger’s “In Paneled Rooms,” which sadly I can’t find online anywhere, and I very much doubt it’s public domain, so you’ll have to find that one on your own.)
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