There is something particularly delightful and passionately engaging about reading erotic poetry. We all can agree to that. But, do people prefer it to watching erotic films or admiring the eros in other arts such as sculptures or paintings?
Let’s look a little dipper into this question in this blog post.
Erotic Poetry and Literature
Erotic poetry and literature is an extremely special, but also delicate genre. You probably wonder why. The answer is fairly simple.
One the one hand, erotic literature is constituted along two distinct and related coordinates: it introduces the reader into a world of myriad feelings by means of which sexual relationships are woven into being and at the same time it seeks to arise in the readers sensations of pleasure and thus awake their own eroticism.
On the other hand, erotic literature is a borderline genre situated in-between high culture and more interested enjoyment, so to speak. Obviously reading erotic poetry is different from reading drama (tragedy, for instance).
Erotic literature goes beyond purely aesthetic pleasure. We don’t necessarily read erotic literature to immerse in a coherent fictional universe that can teach us things and change our perspective on life.
We don’t read erotic poetry in order to engage in a cool-headed analysis of the way a poet constructs setting, mood, rhyme, and rhythm, etc. — unless we actually specialize in literary theory or literature as such. However such cases are extremely rare.
The appeal of erotic poetry
What makes up the immense appeal of erotic poetry for the majority of readers?
First and foremost, erotic poetry acts almost as a release for our brains, since we are so used to repression and societal models which sometimes turn sexuality into taboo and may even claim it could be “dirty”.
Erotic poetry is an excellent proof that sexuality is actually something beautiful that can be transfigured into art. This transformation can be a form of sublimation, to use a concept that was promoted by Freud. 
By means of art, people experience a form of purging (or catharsis) instead of repressing their desires. Erotic poetry is simply a fantastic source of pleasure which acknowledges the beauty and the high priority of sexuality while allowing for a half-abstract experience. Why is it not concrete?
Well, reading erotic poetry requires a degree of abstraction implied by any form of art: the readers move through an array of feelings and experiences that are not their own. For this reason, erotic poetry is not only about sublimation in the purely psychoanalytical sense, since it doesn’t only equal a transformation of one’s own impulses except in a very general way.
Of course through reading erotic literature one gets to indulge in phenomena and sensations that one usually finds pleasurable without committing any transgression from the point of view of one’s own morality.
Instead of betraying one’s spouse with other people, erotic literature permits the readers to escape the boundaries of their own concrete couple in order to find pleasure somewhere else.
However erotic poetry does much more than, say, allowing for the sublimation of the need for erotic diversity: it raises the erotic at the level of the aesthetic and thus it opens the gates towards a different kind of sublimation, literally speaking.
Erotic poetry allows us to experience the sublime itself in the philosophical sense (as a highly impressive and moving quality of greatness) that was so well theorized by Kant. 
Why erotic poetry?
What makes us enjoy reading or writing it so much? Is it the same thing that we experience when watching an erotic film or examining a painting/sculpture which shows us a nude figure or builds on direct representation of sexuality?
We all know about famous works of art that know no restraint in presenting the body as it is for both the aesthetic and the erotic. Of course, we have heard of Michelangelo’s David and we have probably seen it not only once.
How about Goya’s Maja Desnuda? Apart from such widely known examples, there are myriad erotic artworks that may even have been created by contemporary artists you might not have heard of yet. As you can picture, our century is extremely prolific and permissive regarding the erotic and this trend is not limited to literature.
If you are interested in more powerful and even more exotic works of art that could even challenge your own frame concerning what art can do about sexuality, you can take a look at all 15 examples that have made history in this respect.
For many people, the erotic is reduced to pornography and they unwillingly choose to experience it by means of cinema, photography, or magazines that specialize in eroticized displays of the body meant to arouse the readers. Why “unwillingly”?
Because these channels are actually the easiest to access and people often receive information through these media without questioning its purpose or its broader identity.
Some people may have less commercial preferences and are quite familiar with a different kind of erotic movies that relies much less on cliche and objectification, namely erotic art film such as Ai no corrida.
People who are versed in both art and eros surely know this film already. They must also have an excellent understanding about the extent to which drawing on the erotic in art has amazing and high-quality results. Surely other people still have prejudice regarding erotic art or literature in particular.
Some may still consider this genre to verge on superficiality or to function only as an aphrodisiac. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The charm and the mystery of erotic literature lie precisely in its ability to be both arousing and aesthetically valuable. Hardly anyone reads erotic poetry only to get turned on. Most readers want an artistic experience together with the more simple delight of the senses that could easily be achieved by other means.
However what makes erotic literature worth so much for such a large public? One of the deeper reasons is related to the fact that literature has been for a good while a great channel for erotic expression when society encouraged repression.
Not only did literature allow for what social norms tried to forbid, but also it created a very propitious space for the expression of sexual deviations. By this term, we don’t mean anomaly since sexuality shouldn’t be treated normatively.
The bottom line is that literature was the perfect terrain for seeding ideas that would have usually been considered to be less mainstream even by sexually open-minded people.
Why is Venus in Furs by Sacher-Masoch so appreciated? Why is an author like Marquise de Sade not only renowned, but also valuable in his own way? Why has a poet and critic like Swinburne also made history through his treatment of the erotic?
Not only thanks to his abundant talent. It was also partly because of his homoerotic tendencies, partly due to his having approached more â€œexoticâ€ topics (and fetishes) such as flagellation.
50 Shades of Grey
Why is a book like 50 Shades of Grey so successful nowadays? Strangely enough, we live in an era that treasures openness and liberalism, so how come BDSM is still impressive?
The explanation comes down to novelty rather than deviation. Not many erotic works have ventured that far and this is still unexplored territory.
BDSM may be rather commonplacefor some people nowadays “we can no longer regard such practices as deviant,” since many people express interest in experimenting at least and some do it quite openly, adopting it as a real lifestyle.
Moreover, there’s plenty of information about BDSM in the media and anybody who desires to discover why it is worth trying only has to look up things on the web.
Erotic films are also extremely open to such practices since they are part of what plays. However, in literature as well as in other arts such phenomena are still fresh and in very high demand.
Why erotic poetry? What distinguishes it from other genres?
First of all, no genre makes use of imagination the way poetry does. Lyricism and subjectivity are exploited to the maximum, metaphor is the tissue of poetry, and the artist has immeasurable freedom of transfiguring actual sensation and turning it into an almost otherworldly experience.
When reading erotic fiction everything looks almost as in a porn film and the readers are quite familiar with many aspects of sexuality and of the acts described.
There’s scarcely anything surprising except for things like the sex positions that are going to be employed, the moment when people climax, the denouement, etc.
Poetry offers much more: the erotic is often represented figuratively while still phenomenally impactful. Yes, most readers are aroused when reading erotic poetry.
However, at the same time, they are in awe at the fine expression, at the sophistication of feeling, at the synesthetic combination of impressions stirred by the senses and so on.
Poetry doesn’t only describe a sexual act more often than not. Erotic poetry is both about sensitivity and sexuality. The readers are kept in suspense that is not necessarily one that has to do with erotic climax or the development of the relationship between two people.
Poetry cultivates another kind of unexpected: it is the emotion that takes the readers by surprise and also makes them vicariously live through the figure (or the voice) in the poem.
This highly enjoyable feeling of living vicariously through characters is particularly exciting in erotic literature, as you may picture and you may well know.
It’s not necessarily a matter of empathizing with characters or getting inside their brain to understand their point of view and perceptions.
When reading erotic literature we live vicariously through others in an equally erotic way: we are aroused almost as the characters are, we experience similar sensations.
However erotic poetry is even more valuable than that, because it allows us to live vicariously not only through our bodily reflexes. Erotic poetry offers us rich and complex emotional content, intellectual pleasure, and erotically stimulating experience.
Naturally not any erotic poem is going to have the same impact on us on a physical level it highly depends on how overt and striking it is.
However, we almost always enjoy reading erotic poetry from a mental standpoint at least. Often we can really identify with an emotional shade described in the poem. Maybe our own understanding of the erotic was awakened through the right words; maybe a feeling we have for someone was struck through a well-placed and evocative image. It is much more than a representation of the sexual act we search for when reading erotic poetry.
How about the metric part? How does form contribute to the beauty of the erotic? Doesn’t rhyme imply a certain rigor? How can poetic rhythm grasp the actual flow of the erotic?
Although some could expect these demands that may go hand in hand with the lyrical genre (though white verse is quite fashionable) to be a hindrance rather than an advantage, the truth is much more nuanced.
Meter has its own charm because it contains an element of the game: it is a challenge to put sexuality into verse! Have you ever thought of comparing rhyme and rhythm in erotic poetry to actual the actual form and pace of the erotic? This is also a metaphor, of course, but all in all, there’s truth to it since meter can play the role a sex position plays.
How come? It’s simple: it gives shape and structure to the erotic, an experience that in itself is the epitome of wilderness. For this reason, poetry as a genre can actually enhance the value of the erotic. It’s not a mere description of a succession of steps that lead to climax.
Of course, free verse is also an option and a rather successful one. But let’s not forget more conventional forms of poetry. There’s a special charm to them because they organize experience and hold it in restraint. Everybody knows too much freedom may actually undermine pleasure in a way.
It’s already a truism that forbidden fruit tastes better. Aren’t we attracted more to what is not easily accessible — at least not at once? Poetry offers us a sense of structure and refraining.
We don’t have the same kind of delightful experience when reading erotic fiction. We can only imagine the characters involved and build a picture of what everything must look and feel like. But there’s hardly any form of teasing, is there? Metric demands can act as a challenge for people who love erotic poetry — both writers and readers.
For the writer, it’s both a game and a way of sublimating erotic experience through yet another filter and form. Maybe it’s not as appealing and complex to simply describe things as they are.
Imagination and musicality are extremely potent. For readers meter and rhythm enhance the experience. They create music apart from describing the erotic. Sonority adds layers to the feelings or sensation described, just as a color can sometimes express a mood or a specific atmosphere better than a whole stanza.
If you are not yet familiar with all the joys of erotic poetry, now it is time to expand your horizons. Don’t miss out on such an interesting and promising genre only because you are accustomed with other arts or media. Obviously, poetry will not give you the unambiguous concreteness you can find in a film, but it lets your imagination do some work as well.
This is a terrific gift that enhances the potential of the erotic. Your mind is stimulated to reproduce the eroticism it discovers in verse. One could say poetry is a double act of creation: it is not only the poet who creates a world by means of imagery and meter; it is also the reader who transfigures the text into a picture of their own that only builds on what the eyes read.
Every reading is thus also an act of creation, as interpretations enriches the text. Unlike other genres, erotic poetry allows for much more space for what Umberto Eco called opera aperta (the open text).
The poet and the reader work in unison in order to grasp the uniqueness of erotic feeling. Just think about how much reading a novel or short stories offers you out of this multilayered experience. Only then will you understand why erotic poetry has unequaled force and is still widely appreciated and enjoyed.
People love it when their experiences rise above the mundane and this is something erotic poetry promises and delivers without fail. You will simply not find as much pleasure when you read an utterly realistic novel that does nothing more than describing sexual acts in order to turn the readers on. Erotic poetry reflects a specific purity of intent even when it is rather explicit. In erotic poetry aesthetic delight never comes second to anything else.
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