Hello, My Beauties,
It’s week two of my EroticAdventure. I’ve been walking side-by-side with Sappho (thanks to poet and translator Aaron Poochigain’s thoughtful commentary and gorgeous translations).
There’s so much to say about my traveling companion. Sappho threw down the gauntlet of sexy over 2,000 years ago and we’re still struggling to catch up. She’s a delight to hang out with, even though so few of her words survived. It’s been incredible to learn from such a visionary. Her work was transcendent and began a revolution of women’s desire that is still raging today.
What I find most exciting about her company is her sensuality. Regardless of her subject, Sappho’s poetic vision is imbued with life. This stanza from “Leave Crete and sweep to this blest temple” is a perfect example of her sensuality:
“Here under boughs a bracing spring
Percolates roses without number
Umber the earth and, rustling,
The leaves drip slumber.”
Sappho. “Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments of Sappho” (Penguin Classics) (p.5). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition. Translator: Aaron Poogchigain.
I can hear the susurration of wind stirring the leaves and feel the grit of bare earth beneath my palms. Her words become experential, not just informative. And isn’t that what erotica is about?
Not many folks’ fantasies start and end with the mechanics of sex. Sexual fantasy is an escape. Erotica is an adventure that we take with the author. When I read Sappho’s poetry, I’m inspired. I imagine
Lying with her in an orchard, breathing the honey-sweet scent of ripening fruit mingled with the earthen musk of her skin. Each pass of her fingers in my hair is followed by tingling like my body is memorizing her touch. The flesh of her thigh is tender and warm against my cheek. I ache to taste the salt and coppery-tang of her sex bursting on my tongue and hear her breath stutter and skip.
Sappho understood that desire isn’t just about the act of sex. Love and passion live in the details that stay with us as time passes. I want to remember the feel of a lover’s lips or the sound of a hand cracking against a bare ass. Yeah, it doesn’t always have to be lyrical to be poetic. Some of the filthiest, most delightfully subversive erotica I’ve ever read was filled with gorgeous language.
I tend toward lyricism because I’m a geeky romantic and my favorite smut is the kind with plot and feelings. It’s why I describe my Mound of Gaia series on Bellesa.co as “erotic fantasy,” instead of “erotica.” I see my series as a fantasy adventure with a strong erotic component (erotic fantasy), as opposed to a story where the erotic content is the focus (erotica).
Regardless, what Sappho has to teach us when we embrace her writing is that the magic of creating sexual arousal with language is more than just using dirty words. Describing the sex act like you’re writing an instruction manual isn’t enough. Sappho grounded her erotic poems, what few there are, in sensual experience.
Thanks for checking in on this week’s EroticAdventure. Next week we move on to the turn of the millennium and Ovid’s The Art of Love.
Be Well and Be Wonderful.
Image Credit: Simeon Solomon, “Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene,” 1864, Tate Archive, Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)