Poetry, much like music, has a way of seducing you with its words. The cadence lives with you long after you’ve heard something that touches your soul. Poets express themselves and their emotions – joy, sorrow, love, the erotic – can be felt through each stanza. In my mind, poetry is yet another genre of music. It holds some of the same elements, but those elements that differ allow it to stand out from the crowd slightly. However, it’s my hope to focus on the erotic here and now.
Though the erotic seems specific, what I’ve learned from my small dip into Audre Lorde is that the erotic is a very broad concept. The erotic is pleasure in the feminine form – not merely sexual pleasure or “pornographic” as we have come to know it as. Though I’m still mystified by what exactly it means, I wanted to explore the erotic through poetry and my personal interpretation of Lorde. And thus, here we are. Below are poems that I feel express the erotic through a feminine lens. Some poets you may know, others may be new to you. Nevertheless, their words breathe life and love into the pockets of the world that need the most oxygen and restoration–us women.
These poems honor the erotic – each one speaking to different parts of our lives and time here on this Earth, as intended.
"3 O’clock in the Morning" by Jasmine Mans
This poem is from Jasmine Mans' debut book, Black Girl, Call Home. Not only is the artwork exquisite but the poems hit home. This poem in particular speaks of a deep and warming love, an expression of emotions and feeling that can feel difficult to come by. It speaks of a love that is reciprocated and feels like a religious experience. I can’t help but think this is what Lorde spoke of when she spoke of the erotic.
"what if this body" by Adrienne Maree Brown
True to their nature, Pleasure Activism author Adrienne Maree Brown is challenging European standards of beauty in this piece from their blog. They speak in depth about all the things that their body might be able to do as the world continues to shape and the privilege that actually comes along as a self-proclaimed “fat girl.” Lorde speaks to how when we learn to stop speaking and thinking ill of ourselves and embrace our superpowers, we become more in touch with the erotic and I believe Adrienne Maree Brown's "What if This Body" speaks to that.
"Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou
While we’re instructed not to think of the erotic as merely the pornographic, it’s my opinion that Maya Angelou’s poem "Phenomenal Woman" actually speaks to the feminine energy that women exude when they’re tapped into the erotic. When women are confident in who they are and unashamed, they have a way of commanding attention. In this classic poem, we witness this and it’s done in a way that’s graceful.
"Desire" by Alice Walker
In her work, Lorde offers that the use of the erotic will empower us to do things we find meaningful in this world–things we are passionate about without force. Through "Desire," Alice Walker taps into this freeing and rare occurrence as she talks about nurturing herself in a way that fills her heart, and the way her desire to grow turns into devotion.
"A Woman Speaks" by Audre Lorde
Yet another poem about the challenges that come with being a Black woman in this world, but finding empowerment to embrace it. In "A Woman Speaks," Audre Lorde speaks of the generations that came before her and the power we hold as a collective to seek out and make a change in this world. One of the more notable parts of this piece is she doesn’t waste time pointing fingers but instead chooses to speak her own truth without placing blame.
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