Friday, June 29, 2018

Moonlight Musings














Why is it so difficult to write erotica?

And if it isn't, please tell me your secret!



Sometimes I envy the graphic artists, who don't need words. Rodin's The Kiss – here shown in the large marble version rather than the small bronze often photographed – was considered scandalous in its day for being so, well, graphic.

I'm not at all inhibited in my speech, and I firmly believe no subject should be taboo to a writer, but if I try to put sex scenes on the page, I can't figure out how to do it without sounding either crude or ridiculous.


I'm better at it in verse than prose, I must admit. It's easier when I can use metaphor.  For example this one (a notorious poem in its day, which I'm still proud of – but a rarity for me).

I actually belong to a facebook group called Erotic Haiku, though I post there fairly seldom because I don't often write anything applicable. Many of the others who post there are quite explicit. Personally, I don't always find this a turn-on, but rather stating the obvious. Judging by comments, plenty of others do think the explicit is hot. My efforts tend more to the subtle and understated. Such as these. There are probably readers who would not find anything so restrained a turn-on.

So I can manage it now and  then, in my own way, but I'd never be able to make a career out of it – unlike one of my friends, who used to write porn fiction for a living. 'Just create a couple of characters,' she says, 'put them in a location and a situation, think about things you like in bed – and away you go.' She makes it sound so easy! Doesn't work for me. I do know how to fantasise. My difficulty is putting it into words which adequately convey the thoughts. 

I'm not the only one. These musings came about because I recently edited a whole book of erotic love poems by a woman who wanted to celebrate the passionate love between herself and her lover. The trouble was that she was not only trying to depict the sexuality but simultaneously to put into words their transcendent love. She ended up using abstracts to try and describe the ineffable. The writing tended to tell, not show. It neither moved nor aroused this reader.

I think the only way one can write of the ineffable – something which, by definition, is inexpressible in words – is to ground it in sensual imagery. Shakespeare talks of a summer's day – of the flowers, and the strength of the wind. Byron writes of the night and the stars; Burns of 'a red, red rose' and 'a melody that's sweetly sung in tune'.

Those famous examples, however, are more romantic than erotic. One present-day poet whom I think brilliant at erotica is Mary Grace Guevara from the dVerse team, writing as Scarlet at her blog Scarlet Verses. I am in awe of the way she writes poem after poem on sexual love, and manages to make each one not only truly erotic, but new. She does use metaphors; also lots of references to actual human bodies and their interactions – always hot but never crude.

Our own Sanaa (blogging at A Dash of Sunny) with her love of lush, sensual, musical words, is wonderful at poems which are both romantic and passionate. Bjorn is another who creates amazing poems of love and desire (as well as amazing poems on all sorts of other topics) at Bjorn Rudberg's Writings. Another who comes to mind is the fabulous Magaly Guerrero, at her blog of the same name, who manages to say the most lubricious things without a trace of obscenity (as in four-letter words) – but lots of heat.

I know that many more of you, my fellow-poets at Poets United, can write erotica. I recently read and enjoyed your 'Lust' poems for Midweek Motif. (I myself cheated and wrote of a different kind of lust.) 

So how do you tackle such topics? Is metaphor best? Do you prefer the subtle or the bold? Do you too find it challenging? If not – or even more, perhaps, if you do – what advice would you give to an aspiring writer of erotica?


The photo of the Rodin is in the Public Domain.


39 comments:

  1. Thank you soo much, Rosemary!💞 I agree, writing erotic poems is challenging where one is constantly at the risk of sounding crude or ridiculous..

    I am a little reserved when it comes to writing/describing sex scenes.. perhaps I will overcome the feeling as I grow older with the passage of time.

    I find pleasure in experimenting with words and imagery and am always in search of new ways to express emotion. I dare say I still have a lot to learn but I guess that is part of being a Poet; we go through continous change and keep on evolving. 💞

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    1. Your explorations of words and emotions convey passion (as I said) so well that you don't need to be more graphic!

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  2. *giggle* I love writing this sort of thing. I can't say it comes easy but there's a lot of fun with playing with words and finding different ways to express naughty stuff, and that makes the process smoother.

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    1. The enjoyment is felt by your readers too! How lovely to have fun with it; perhaps that's what I'm missing.

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  3. When I was young, I wrote nothing but poems about bodies touching, and the spiritual in that came through. I have pulled some up lately to give to the inner life of my never-finished novel's main character. But I? I think I've retreated from exposure. But looking at those poems, I say they ran the gamut from metaphor to literal to allegory--with the key factors being (1) surprise and (2) getting the reader to inhale and hold their breath.

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  4. I am reminded of William Blake's The Sick Rose in connection with today's Moonlight Musings. Such an amazing poem it was!! However when it comes to myself I don't think I'll ever be able to write any 'erotica' poem. I simply lack the power to lift such a subject to 'Art' height. I read the poems you gave link to. Each one has been created and constructed with much effort beautifully.

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    1. Thanks, Sumana. Yes, Blake is supreme, isn't he? I realise I have not featured him in The Living Dead. Perhaps it's time I did.

      Well, it's not necessary that everyone writes erotica. Your beautiful poems are full of unconditional love for all life, and that is more than sufficient.

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  5. Oh how interesting! A topic i likely could not write about, unless i were to make it communal. The antithesis of erotica. But i admire those who do and Rosemary That Poem definitely deserves to be famous. It is sensational i am going to send a link to Chris, who will love it. Cackles.

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    1. Many thanks!

      Ah well, there are many kinds of passion, after all. Keep writing of your passion fr the natural world, and I'll be very happy to keep reading!

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    1. Ah, dear Jae, that is wisdom – for all poetry.

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    2. I completely agree with Jae Rose. When we write what we feel, writing just... happens. And for those of us who think sensuality and gardening most of the time *giggles*, well... you know. :-)

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  7. Tsk! I realised I had left out Magaly, who richly deserves to be included among those who write magnificent erotica, so have included her above, even though the article has already been read by many.

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  8. Love and romance often features in my poems and usually I have no difficulty writing about them. All I have to do is think back a few years and there will be a situation I have experienced that would fit quite well. However I thoroughly enjoyed this feature, thank you so much Rosemary.

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    1. Oh, Robin, you're the expert in romantic poems (which are also stories) and when you write of passion you manage to be both delicate and unequivocal at the same time. I love to read them!

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  9. I think bug emotions are all tough--and sex and all the feeling attached are big--I like the idea of less is more in this genre though--so that the mind takes over

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    1. Yes, good point. I think the ultimate in eroticism is to inspire the reader's own imagination.

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  10. It's funny, but I have never thought of what I write as erotica. Or, when it comes to certain pieces, as horror. Until readers started to point out that my love-poems left them searching for a fan or a cold shower or their lovers. And how the darker pieces left them searching for the light-switch.

    I think, that when it comes to erotic writing, just like any other writing, we just need to practice honesty of emotion. When we do, the garden blooms what feels and it does it lusciously.

    Thanks so much for the wave, Rosemary love.

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    1. Oh yes, 'honesty of emotion' – that makes perfect sense. Thank you for the clarity.

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  11. I really enjoyed the way you tackled this subject, Rosemary, and the poets whose works you mentioned. It is always a joy to read a good erotic poem. I would say that I always look forward to reading Magaly's poems. Somehow she manages to find a way of exploring the erotic in most every poems she writes. What a wonderful talent it takes to be able to do this.

    Rosemary, interesting observation regarding the book you were editing. Indeed, I think, good erotic should show - not tell. I can understand why the particular book mentioned might have fallen a bit flat.

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  12. I have never written that kind of poems on purpose. But I do write of love. I don't like them to be too "sticky."

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    1. You amaze me! I have come to expect that you would do anything brilliantly.

      (Well, I am in good company then.)

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  14. I have tried a few times writing Erotica... could not do it in prose but more in verse, and probably approach it with a metaphor (but avoid the cliches)...

    https://brudberg.me/2017/01/24/two-as-one/

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    1. You do indeed succeed in avoiding the clichés, and use metaphor beautifully. I think you also write with that 'emotional honesty' Magaly mentions (even when being fictional).

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  15. I can go sensual on occasion, but I don't have the want to travel toward erotic writing. I admire those who can. Thankfully there are many who can tackle subjects I have no talent to express.

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    1. Yes, perhaps it's a case of 'to each their own'. We all have our particular strengths, skills and preoccupations.

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  16. i don't usually write erotica, but there are a couple poems in the computer just waiting to hit the publish button. till now.
    i went over to your link, and yes, i think it is a very daring poem, even during the 70's when everyone was so much more opinionated. :)

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    1. I'm sure you would write it well on those rare occasions, and I hope you hit the publish button soon.

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  17. I don't know if I have the ?gift to write erotica Rosemary, but sometimes I want to write explicit, when it seems appropriate to the rest of my words, but soft and sensuous and never smutty.
    But I can't, worry so much that folk will think I am a little sick...
    Anna :o]

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    1. Maybe you could create a pseudonym and a separate blog just for those poms? I hope you do write them, even if you don't (yet) make them public.

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  18. Many thanks to you all for the generous, thoughtful and honest comments. And thanks, too, to the many others who didn't comment but took the time to read (215 so far).

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  19. Thanks for the mentioned and link to my blog Rosemary ~ I used to write nothing but erotica and love in the beginning of my poetry joureny~ It took a while for me to write something else and now , reading back my poems, I am like, is this really me writing these ~

    I think the requisite to writing them is having these experiences and expressing them in a way that recalls all the senses coming alive. Have a good week ~

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    1. To recall 'all the senses coming alive' – I think that's a great reminder. Thank you!

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