Bringing Sexy Back (To Valentine’s Day): 17 Steamy Poems by Esteemed Poets

17-steamy-poems-for-valentines-day

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”

Wistful sexy:

C. P. Cavafy, “Body, remember”

Bitter sexy:

Thomas Wyatt. “They Flee from Me”

Literate sexy:

Robert Hass, “Etymology” (start watching at 18:42)

Damn sexy:

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?

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Bringing Sexy Back (To Valentine’s Day): 15 Steamy Poems by Esteemed Poets

Dear Readers,

This post was a big hit last year, and so it’s back (It’s 2015, there are 15 poems . . . it works, right?). I hope you’ll post in the comments so I can get a head start on 2016’s Valentine’s poetry post.

Happy Valentine’s Day in advance!

(Special mention to our friends J and D, celebrating their first anniversary this week, and our friends D and E, whose birthdays are on Valentine’s Day.)


 

Toss that teddy bear and give your significant person the gift of verse this Valentine’s Day.

Red Rose Petals by Victor Habbick, courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Red Rose Petals by Victor Habbick, courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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”:

Wistful sexy:

C. P. Cavafy, “Body, remember”

Bitter sexy:

Thomas Wyatt. “They Flee from Me”

Literate sexy:

Robert Hass, “Etymology” (start watching at 18:42)

Damn sexy:

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 Kinnel, “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”

Your turn: what’s the sexiest poem you’ve ever read?

“charged and waiting”: Audre Lorde’s “Recreation”

Audre Lorde Collected WorksAudre Lorde’s poem “Recreation” is simultaneously about sex and writing — the act of love and the act of creating. The title itself suggests doubleness: “recreation” in the sense of play (as in, Parks and) and “recreation” as in the repeated act of creating.

Reciprocity is one of the poem’s themes, as the poet/lover both gives to and takes from writing and her lover. At the same time, writing and sex are reciprocal, too:

 
 
moving through our word countries
my body
writes into your flesh
the poem
you make of me.
 
 

One of the many things I like about this poem is its specificity; it doesn’t claim a universal love, or generalize about pleasure. It’s about a particular speaker in a particular moment, which is deliberate, given Lorde’s views on the relationships among power, creativity, and the erotic.

Bringing Sexy Back (To Valentine’s Day): 15 Steamy Poems by Esteemed Poets

Toss that teddy bear and give your significant person the gift of verse this Valentine’s Day.

Red Rose Petals by Victor Habbick, courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Red Rose Petals by Victor Habbick, courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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”:

Wistful sexy:

C. P. Cavafy, “Body, remember”

Bitter sexy:

Thomas Wyatt. “They Flee from Me”

Literate sexy:

Robert Hass, “Etymology” (start watching at 18:42)

Damn sexy:

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 Kinnel, “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”

Your turn: what’s the sexiest poem you’ve ever read?

“Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee”: John Donne, Sexy Poetry, and Making Valentine’s Day Fun Again

Back in the waning days of 2013, I promised that I’d devote February’s Tuesday poetry posts to sexy poems by dead poets.

I’m here to deliver.

I kinda hate Valentine’s Day, for all the usual reasons, I suppose. Pink looks sickly to me, overpriced roses do not smell as nice as regularly priced roses, and Victoria’s Secret is pretty gross.It’s all so generic and impersonal, and nothing epitomizes the sorry state of Valentine’s Day like the Hallmark card.

So I propose that we bring sexy back with real, honest-to-goodness poetry. Grab some steamy lines from some esteemed wordsmiths and write those in your card to your significant person.

Love poem anthologies there are a-plenty (just search for wedding poems and prepare for the deluge), so I shall take it upon myself this month to point you toward the sexiest poems in English. No hearts, no mushy stuff.

There may even be a list.

John DonneTo start things off, here’s John Donne’s elegy “To His Mistress Going to Bed” (I know I wrote about John Donne last year, but that was a Holy Sonnet. This is not.).

In the poem, the speaker encourages his inamorata to shed her clothes, piece by piece, because, well, being naked is fun. And only John Donne can manage to convey that the woman being seduced is rich (she has a pocket watch and a tres chic outfit), refer to England’s new colonies, and bring up a midwife in an erotic poem that sparkles with wit, puns, and the most charming sophistry you’ve ever read. Bonus: women are compared to books to explain their sex appeal.

What a guy.

For those who don’t want to write out the whole poem in their Valentine’s Day cards, I’ve excerpted the funniest/raunchiest bit at the end of the post.

Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed
John Donne

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

 

As promised, the funniest/naughtiest lines (you may need to alter some pronouns to fit your situation. I won’t tell John Donne, but give him a h/t, ok?)

Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!

Dragon Bound, Part the Second: I have a theory.

When we left off last week, Pia and Dragos were about to be dragged into a goblin fortress, and I was seething with feminist (personist?) rage. dragonboundreadalongbutton-01

The rage is back, folks, but luckily for you, and Thea Harrison, I’m on my way back from my brother’s wedding in Cleveland, so this will be brief.

This section of the book brings Pia into Dragos’s world/demesne (yes, they escaped from the goblins. I was shocked.). We get to meet Dragos’s lieutenants, who, the interweb tells me, will get their own books eventually, as well as a fairy named Tricks, who seems to me like a magical Kristen Chenoweth in a business suit.

Sidebar: why is it that women in these books only drink white wine?

Dragos has his own skyscraper and ruthless lawyers (oh, did I mention that the book’s epigraph is attributed to Donald Trump?), and gosh, does the poor dragon man have a lot on his mind! Here’s a credit card, Pia! Have a latte and hit the gym, but don’t forget lunch with the girls! Oh, I don’t like your clothes, so please wear this expensive robe so that none of my hulking gorgeous male friends will get a look at your (no doubt quivering) thighs.

And then there’s the sex. The always-agressive (though with consent, this time), heteronormative, vanilla sex (I mean, he’s not a dragon at the time, right?).

Yes, it seems that once you hit the 1/3 mark, your main characters get to quit holding at second and thirdish base and run for home. A lot. The sex scenes are just as awful as you would think, with Pia feeling so affected by Dragos “wrecking” her that she feels she needs to go sit in a dark room and sort out her feelings.

I have a theory about all this “wrecking.” You know how A-list actors (for the most part) will only do graphic sex scenes if the scenes are integral to the plot of the movies? I’m thinking of Diane Lane in Unfaithful, Joseph Fiennes & Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, Gael García Bernal (yes, I know he wasn’t famous yet) in the last scene in Y Tu Mamá También, for starters.

[Sidebar 2: I prefer sex in movies to be implied — see the curtains stirring in the breeze in The Maltese Falcon? Yeah, that’s Humphrey Bogart having sex.]

Well, I think Ms. Harrison is trying to confer an air of legitimacy on Dragon Bound‘s sex scenes with these claims that Pia’s whole self is changed when she has sex with Dragos (“He took her so far and deep outside of herself, she came back changed in fundamental ways she didn’t understand” [176].). It’s as if she’s saying, “Look! The book needs the sex! It’s part of the characters’ arcs!”

At least Dragos willingly performs cunnilingus.

As I said in my first post, I think there are some interesting dynamics at work in the book — the interaction between human and non-human societies in particular. And I get a kick out of Elves enforcing trade embargoes. Would someone with influence suggest to Ms. Harrison that she try her hand at less sex-centered mass market paranormal fiction?

Next week: Will Dragos learn to love? Will he accidentally-on-purpose kill his second in command? Will Pia reveal her Wyr-self? Stay tuned . . .

Check out the other readers-along: