Valentine’s Day is upon us, friends, and in its original form (featuring fifteen poems), this has been one of the most popular posts over the last few years. For 2017, I’ve added two poems, for seventeen total. Do you have a favorite I should feature next year?
Toss that teddy bear and give your significant person the gift of verse this Valentine’s Day.
That poet everyone reads at weddings is actually much more appropriate for the bedroom:
e. e. cummings, “i like my body when it is with your”
An unsexy title for a very sexy poem (check out those ellipses!):
Li-young Lee, “This Room and Everything In It”
The “Oh, snap” kind of sexy:
Edna St. Vincent Millay, “I, being born a woman and distressed”
C. P. Cavafy, “Body, remember”
Thomas Wyatt. “They Flee from Me”
Robert Hass, “Etymology” (start watching at 18:42)
Audre Lorde, “Recreation”
Desire, frustration, and jewelry. Also: socioeconomic tension. (And the first overtly lesbian poem I read as a teenager. Bit of a lightbulb moment, there.)
Carol Ann Duffy, “Warming her Pearls”
Difficult to choose just one Donne poem, but hey, let’s go with the salute to nakedness:
John Donne, “To His Mistress Going to Bed”
Restraint and abandonment, all at once:
Emily Dickinson, “Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (269)”
For the Dear Readers who are also parents:
Galway Kinnell, “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”
Maybe this is where they got the title for Blue is the Warmest Color:
May Swenson, “Blue”
I hate birds, but this poem is still amazing:
Henri Cole, “Loons”
You’ll never look at roses the same way again, I promise:
D.H. Lawrence, “Gloire de Dijon”
And yes, a Neruda poem. But I can’t find it anywhere on the interwebs, so you’ll have to go find a copy of World’s End or Late and Posthumous Poems for yourself.
Pablo Neruda, “Física”/”Physics”
Sexy in translation:
León Salvatierra (trans. Javier O. Huerta), “Act”
Desire in list form:
Major Jackson, “Superfluities”
Your turn: what’s the sexiest poem you’ve ever read?
10 thoughts on “Bringing Sexy Back (To Valentine’s Day): 17 Steamy Poems by Esteemed Poets”
You have some nice ones here, some that I’m familiar with, others new to me. I especially like the one by Kinnell. I couldn’t find the e. e. cummings at that link, however.
Thanks for the tip, Kay! I think I’ve fixed the link.
Oh, good. I’ll look again because I like e. e. cummings.
“i like its hows” nice.
It deleted part of my comment! The bit that read “”. Maybe with quotation marks around it, it will be preserved.
Haha. Evidently not. The point is, I read Blue and it was VERY SEXY.
Right? I love her.
Of these I’ve only ever read Donne and Duffy. It’s so impressive to me how you manage to pick out individual poems on certain themes. I might be able to pick a poet, or a collection, that does that theme well, but not a particular poem. Last year I encountered eroticism in Phyllis Tickle, Andrew McMillan, Craig Raine and Rita Dove. Not so far this year, I think.
These lists take a long time for me to put together, which is why I repost them every year instead of writing new ones (although I did add two poems this year–the Major Jackson poem is from his collection Holding Company, which I just read).