Art · Poetry

Of poetry and the male form.


It was a whim that drove me yesterday to begin searching for love poetry written by women authors, or at the very least from a female perspective. Although this has been up and coming for a long time – ever since I immersed myself properly in Pablo Neruda’s work, and found that poem after lovely, dark, sensual poem described women, only women. It didn’t really change the appeal of his work for me – the man is a genius when it comes to describing sensual love, and besides, many of his best poems have a neutral-gender perspective – but I still felt as though I would be so much happier if I found one poem – just a single one – with the male form described, with a female enchanted writing the poetry.

Yesterday, this feeling of incompleteness came to light once again when I stumbled across Keats’ poem, Bright Star:

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest…”

Breasts! What is it with men and breasts. And the annoying thing about them is that references to silky smooth skin, or curves, or gently flowing hair, you can squint at those and sort of apply them to men too, but when it comes to breasts the individual being described is OBVIOUSLY and OVERTLY female.

Even Oscar Wilde, whom I thought was gay, fills his love poetry with references to blonde hair and delicate hands and breasts, breasts, breasts.

Even when its not breasts, poetry written by men is just obviously written by men. Observe this lovely little verse in Valentine by John Fuller. It starts off neutral and then veers into women references again.

I’d like you even if you were malign
And had a yen for sudden homicide.
I’d let you put insecticide into my wine.
I’d even like you if you were the Bride of Frankenstein
Or something ghoulish out of Mamoulian’s Jekyll and Hyde.

The poem is absolutely fantastic, sexy and funny at the same time, and I cannot blame a man writing a poem for referring to his love as female. But what I can be upset about is the dearth of female-perspective poetry in general. There is just not enough out there, and what there is usually describes love in general terms, even sexual love. And there is just not enough about male bodies! The female form has been sexualised beyond anything, but the male form, which in my opinion is so amazingly gorgeous too – that just doesn’t have enough devotion heaped on it. And that is annoying to me.

I mean, there’s the following by Dickinson, that is slightly sensual if you have a vivid imagination:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
Upon MUCH searching, I found a contemporary poet, Elia Mahima Jaipaul, whose female-perspective poetry is deeply sensual and absolutely gorgeous:

I woke up this morning thinking erotic thoughts
I want you to penetrate my mind
Slowly, deeply, rhythmically
To enter my deepest thoughts
To explore the contours of my soul
Diving into ecstatic reaction
Wildly emotional, both of us
We consume each other
Tenderly retreating, only to renew our spiritual communion
Again and again, rhythmically,
Deeply, souls in connection

FINALLY, such bliss!
In addition, I appealed to my friend and fellow blogger, F.,   for help and suggestions. She found me this lovely, poetic prose piece by another Pakistani blogger. There are parts of it that just make me want to cry, because I can’t write that way – I have the feelings, but not the expression of them. It’s so beautiful!

It’s numbing when I see my words wash over your wounds. Your feelings made of flesh hiss at the sweet balm of diction. You push my hair away when I’m looking down into the empty palms of our future. You sit behind me, so we’re looking in the same direction but not at the same things. You push my hair away, you kiss my wingspan- my heart takes flight.

She also found me two pieces by Victorian poets, my favourite of which was by Alice Meynell

 “I lie amongst you, and I kiss
Your fragrance mouldering.
O dead delights, is it such bliss,
That tuneful Spring?
Is love so sweet, that comes to this?
Kiss me again as I kiss you;
Kiss me again,
For all your tuneful nights of dew,
In this your time of rain,
For all your kisses when Spring was new

So all in all, not a bad haul for a day of intense searching.  My hunger’s still unquenched though.  There is just not enough poetry out there about men, from a female perspective or at least, I have yet to discover it. So I’m going to continue looking. And in the meantime, maybe create some of my own? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I am ending with a lovely piece I found some time ago. It has a special significance that I am unable to explain at the moment. Suffice it to say that I feel this is something I could write, and that I feel applies to the male form, and that I love it.

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See you guys soon.

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9 thoughts on “Of poetry and the male form.

  1. well in older forms of english breast was used as a reference to chest in general and i have scene manuscripts of such nature in the past where a man was talking to another man and something like to witness this truth and keep the secret in thy breast for it should be opened. Not criticising or anything 😀 just thought to share it. good to read stuff from you after a while 🙂

    1. yeah I know breast is supposed to mean chest in a lot of places but when you combine it with ‘her long locks of hair” and assorted stuff it stops being gender neutral. And thank you! I shall try to be writing more in future, bohot hi kaamchor ho gayee hoon wrt blogging hehe.

  2. Yeah, “breast means chest” only works for so long before you end up screaming “For Pete’s sake, sausage!” (Sounds like I’m ordering lunch at a diner…)
    The male form is simultaneously under-appreciated and safe from the bindings of a desirous gaze. I’m out to change that, one act of lechery at a time. 😛
    But really. If I could write the solid yet fragile joy of my [male and female, but esp male] lovers’ bodies into poetry, I would. My words falling lightly upon memories of their flesh, clinging to thoughts of them like wet tissue paper. I wonder what they would think of it. /:)

    1. In all my attempts to describe bodies, they end up sounding like a plain run of adjectives, flat and almost clinical in flavour. And I simply cannot sacrifice accuracy for poetry. It makes me sad 😦

      I like the acts of lechery bit hehe. I don’t think reverse objectification is a good way to reduce objectification in general, but damn, I totally understand the impulse. I wish more people saw the beauty in male bodies.

  3. The problem isn’t the gaze that’s lustful but the bindings society then places upon the one who is gazed at. Reverse objectification doesn’t really do anything except to emphasize a point by demonstration. But of course, I don’t gaze to make a point. 🙂

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