Okay, so this may get a little personal, but I feel like reasoning through a topic that always leaves me a little perplexed: eroticism.
Poetry has a history with this subject and we’ve read a few poems that wandered into the erotic realm (Sam Sax’s “Lisp,” for example), so, I guess, this blog is as good a place as any to get down and dirty. In the other class/workshops I have been a part of whether it be fiction or CNF, the erotic was something we only acknowledged when it showed up. We never fully embraced it, it wasn’t something we actively sought to integrate, in my mind. Maybe university classes just aren’t the right forum for it. Personally, I felt a similar way. It’s just a technique that conveys a high degree of intimacy, but, in my head, always seemed to be just over the edge, never quite hitting the mark.
To be frank, I’m kind of scared to tackle erotic topics in my writing. I don’t think I’m a prude, but maybe sex has just never been something I openly discuss. I’m fascinated by it, though. I haven’t actively sought out erotic literature or poetry, but from what I have read, it feels like it falls into two camps: the explicit and the implied. The explicit is, well, explicit. The erotic becomes an image. The implied at least tries to be more subtle using clever metaphors or something equally contrived to evoke the shadows of sex (i.e. eruptions as ejaculation, flowers as vulvas, or “the little death” coming to imply an orgasm).
For some reason, I resent both of these approaches. The explicit approach is powerful in stirring the physicality, but it makes me pull away from the speaker/narrator/I. I agreed to consort with your mind, not your body, I find myself thinking. It’s not that it’s vulgar or forced; it’s just forceful.
The implied sexual innuendos feel like they don’t have the courage to bring the image to completion (I know I’m doing the very thing I’m rebuking, but how could I not). The physical and pointedly emotional is left in some ethereal state without delineating the nuances its playing on, something I just don’t find satisfying.
Boy, am I hard to please. But, miraculously, I think “Lisp” was excellent. The reason why, I believe is the fact that the erotic in that poem is a symptom of the wider context. The poem is about the speakers identity, of which his lisp and his sexuality are inextricably linked, specifically in an orally fixated way. We engage with his identity. There’s a logic. If the sex is extraneous, like anything so personal really, it can’t possibly hold any weight for an outside observer. Without the logic (I’m gonna do it again) it just comes off as masturbatory, only serving to engage the writer. But I do need a bigger sample size.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Perhaps, the erotic can equally create distance as it does intimacy. I’ve accepted that a relationship between reader and writer is fundamental to writing in general, but maybe I just have to accept a personal core tenet may not always be tenable. Sax may be confronting and barring people just as much as he welcomes them in.
Sex isn’t that special. The erotic is a tool and technique like anything else, probably.
Thanks for reading.