CHENNAI: It seems especially fi tting that I’m working on this column even as I am surrounded by the rampant commercialism of Valentine’s Day, a day that supposedly honours and celebrates love with declarations in verse and poetry. Although most of the verses I will end up quoting in this column may never fi nd their way inside a card splattered with glittery pink hearts, I am persuaded that all love poetry is erotic poetry, somehow, and I am not alone.
“Properly speaking, all love poetry is erotic poetry; in fact the greatness of poetry and literature is its eroticism, for they are most true then to life, which is largely erotic.” The Erotic Movie in Literature, 1919 by Albert Mordell. In the last column. I touched briefl y upon erotic poetry as part of the larger general theme of the rich history of erotic literature. But erotic poetry deserves a lot more attention than just a passing mention or a paragraph or two. It is a rich art form that people generally don’t know about, or have a tendency to ignore if they do.
It is not even as if all erotic poetry is suggestive; what it is indicates is the common thread that runs throughout the human condition: our desire to love and be loved, to belong to, and to belong with. Take, for instance, the hauntingly beautiful verses from The Song of Songs, also called The Song of Solomon, so named for the alleged author according to Judeo- Christian tradition, King Solomon. It is about both sex and spirit, an echo from a time when we sought religious and spiritual clarity from our role in the regeneration of life.
The belief that the earth was the visible body of the goddess is more than visible in the various verses that course through The Song of Songs. The song itself begins with passionate intensity; “Kiss me”, it begs, “make me drunk with your kisses! Your sweet loving is better than wine.” Or Sappho’s delicious and emotion-tinged verses to her female lovers, all of which we can identify with if we have ever loved. “I have not had one word from her”, starts the poem of the same name.
“Frankly I wish I were dead.” In On the throne of many hues, immortal Aphrodite, she writes, “Come to me now again, release me from this pain, everything my spirit longs to have fulfi lled, fulfi l, and you shall be my ally.” In To Andromeda, she writes this beautiful verse: “Some an army of horsemen, some an army on foot, and some say a fl eet of ships is the loveliest sight on this dark earth; but I say it is whatever you desire.” Indeed, this column may only focus on erotic poetry for many weeks to come and never run short of material, and we will certainly revisit it again in a future column. Love day is fast approaching, and many of you will be wondering how to celebrate it. May I suggest a private poetry reading in lieu of the usual box of chocolates?