someone totell you the sexiest poem ever is like asking them to tell you the most beautiful place in the world . the choice is just too vast and, besides, can’t it be said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Along the same lines, poetry in its countless forms is already extremely subjective, so put in to the mix the indefinable idea of ‘sexiness’ or erotic lierature and you have what is essentially an impossibility.
More words have been written about love and romance than there are grains of sand on a beach and, if you consider the countless opinion polls on the internet, many of these works are considered to be sexy.
‘Romance’ by Edgar Allen Poe is one of those poems, referencing very subtly as it does to “forbidden things.” Emily Dickinson’s ‘If those I loved were lost’ also ranks high up in the opinion polls, although many might find it difficult to describe what they saw as ‘sexiness’ among its eight lines. Yet more difficult to grasp is ‘Skunk Hour’ by Robert Lowell, which is about how a man in his prime living in the small town of Maine cannot find love.
E.E. Cummings is certainly a firm favourite in terms of sexiness. In his curiously titled “because I love you last night”, for instance, he enjoys using a visual allusion that rolls and falls similar to the woman of his dreams, whose “face smile breasts gargled.”
“The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by T S Eliot, on this occasion referecing a man approaching old age, is also highly ranked as a sexy poem. Might it be because the first six lines are delivered in Italian?
There are poems that almost defy categorisation. For instance, in one online poll, Christina Rossetti’s narrative ‘Goblin Market’ ranks top of the charts. In her lengthy pre-Raphaelite story, the evil goblins lure Laura and Lizzie with their refrain to “Come buy, come buy, our orchard fruits.” What begins as a seemingly innocent pastoral verse leads into the girls’ precipitous situation, and Lizzie eventually being overcome by the goblins. Its many double-entendre nuances to juicy peaches, plums and figs are mixed in with a menace which results this poem being the topic of many an academic discussion. Is it a feminist poem or a religious allegory? Many individuals would resolutely say it’s just plain sexy.
Then there is directly erotic writing, which takes the concept of romantic poetry and sends it kicking and screaming to the end of the spectrum. Neil Rollinson’s poetry, for example, makes no confusion regarding what category it should be in. In ‘French’, where there is eroticism totally unmasked by any of the devices used by Rossetti, he describes “extra-curricular” activities with the personal tutor in the “cool expanse of her bed.”
Either erotic or romantic, it appears the discussion regarding what makes a poem sexy is going to go on for as long as people keep reading poetry.
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