Tell-tail poets: Excerpts from poems about love, loss, and lust

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Bards throughout time have figured out novel ways to twist words into tantalizing turns about love, loss, and lust — pretty much as soon as someone figured out how to recite poetry.

Here are a few choice excerpts from poets who liked to make double, even triple entendres:

Walt Whitman

Nature-lover, Brooklynite, and great American poet Walt Whitman was not shy about his body electric, and hoped everyone would enjoy it as much as he did. For some reason, his poetry brings out the nudist in people.

I sing the Body electric;

The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;

They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,

And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

— from “Leaves of Grass”

E.E. Cummings

A poet popular among the internet crowd for his blatant disregard for capitalization, Cummings has his own collection of erotic poetry. From what we can tell, he was fond of hardness — including hard eyes, hard hands, and, of course, hard bodies.

my girl’s tall with hard long eyes

as she stands, with her long hard hands keeping

silence on her dress, good for sleeping

is her long hard body filled with surprise

— from “xix” in “Erotic Poems”

Emily Dickinson

She’s a poet known for her depression, but during her lifetime she was a lady known for her gardening. Having a very big bed of flowers full of bees hungry for pollen, Dickinson must have found it easy to draw on her experience for poetic use.

Reaching late his flower

Round her chamber hums —

Counts his nectars —

Enters — and is lost in Balms

— from “Come Slowly – Eden”

Edgar Allen Poe

They say poetry is either about death or sex, and Poe famously veered towards the former. His last completed poem was a love poem, but it is a love poem that ends with the lovers lying side-by-side — cold as corpses

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,

In the sepulchre there by the sea,

In her tomb by the sounding sea.

— from “Annabel Lee”

D.H. Lawrence

Poetry is never really about just one thing, but it’s often strange. Many of Lawrence’s poems were definitely strange and often about sex — and back when he was alive, this got him into a lot of trouble. Here, he writes about elephants mating.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts

grow full of desire,

and the great beasts mate in secret at last,

hiding their fire.

— from “The Elephant is Slow to Mate”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 5:39 pm, July 9, 2018
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