Adrienne Rich is one of my favourite female poets. And the line above in the title was one of the first evocative images I remember coming across to describe the female sex. “In my rose-wet cave.” Somehow combining the image of being underwater, and yet botanical. Fragrant and secret. Hidden away, deep-hued and moist. I was in my mid-twenties, studying feminism, theatre, and dating a poet. I was both intrigued and delighted. And I began to search for more of this kind of writing, that could re-invent the feminine body, the feminine experience of desire.
This week, for the next seven days and seven nights … welcome to my rose-wet cave. Metaphorically speaking. I shall offer something on the “erotic feminine” each day. Some days it will be women poets, from many different periods who have inspired me. Some days it will be my own pieces. Other days, I shall offer musings on creative poetry, and ways in to writing your own. On the seventh day, I am once again honoured to be a feature writer with Little Raven; last time it was a Flash Fiction piece called Feast, this time it’s a poem called Best Enjoyed Hard. (Hmm … I’m beginning to notice a food theme in my erotica).
Adrienne Rich was born in 1929, and her work spanned the rest of that century and into the first decade of the twenty-first century. Her first poems were published when she was a college student, in 1951. Imagine being a young female college student in that era, where so fewer women went to University. Imagine getting a book of poems published amongst a sea of male-influenced intellectualism. She was a champion of women’s rights, and civil rights, and won many awards. Her work was incisive, often political; her poetry deeply moving and revealing of the feminine perspective. Diving into the Wreck is a stunning collection of her poems. She died in 2012. Her work has influenced my creative work enormously, and given me courage to continue to articluate the feminine experience – both in its dark and its light. In an essay which set a particular course for me in terms of finding the courage to speak (and perform) the taboo, she states:
“When a woman tells the truth, she creates the possibility for more truth around her.”
And so we do. And so women have, from Sappho in Ancient Greek times to Aphra Behn in the seventeenth century to … you and me, and so many other women writing now. And the world is a richer place for it. Ms Rich would agree, I’m sure.
So, why write erotic poetry? To honour those who have fired our skin, and singed our hearts. To experience the delicious precision of sensations again, and to be able to re-visit that part of ourselves in years to come. To remember that we are desiring bodies. To develop our own erotic tongue, a language for sex, for desire. To see more clearly who we are when we are speaking and listening through our bodies.