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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Fergie Ferg has got nothing on e.e. cummings when it comes to love and sex

One of contemporary pop culture's favorite pastimes is pushing the limits of ‘shock value' when it comes to sex and sexual innuendo. Today, unfortunately, addressing sexuality is not usually associated with making your momma proud, but making her cringe, and probably call your aunt/local religious official sobbing inconsolably.  

 

Even though Fergie Ferg thinks she's being really clever with hooks like How come every time you come around, my London, London bridge wanna go down?,"" we know the ""meaning"" the Dutchess is trying to convey does not hail from her previous work woe as a working class bridge operator, forced to raise and lower said bridge for perhaps, a large fishing dinghy or cruise ship loaded with those pesky bourgeoisie.  

 

Listeners engage in their own cover-up games. We get asked to ""Shake Dat Laffy Taffy"" and coyly feign scandal at such allusions to sexual excess and exploitation while secretly sliding up the volume on our iPods.  

 

But the tradition of covert sexuality in art and culture is capable of engaging in a much more complicated game of social tug-of-war. When poets talk about sex in a way that challenges or differentiates from what is considered the ""social norm,"" a space for conversation is created for the individual reader and society. However, poems also strive to retain the intimacy and poignancy of love that can be created in its snapshot-like frame.  

 

The poet John Donne wrote several notorious poems that, under the guise of metaphor, were rather flowery suggestions to his plentiful mistresses as to what they could, you know, do later on in the evening. After some very important study of course, some stately court processional dancing (The Galliard! The Sinkapace!), and maybe some drinks.  

 

Donne was a very religious man, and his poetry directly comprised and contradicted his dedication to a Christian lifestyle. However, he believed in expressing love as potently and earnestly as he felt it, sans the guilt imposed by conservative (or perhaps simply repressed or tragically unattractive) leaders in the Church. Donne may have been sexually decadent, but arguably, he may also have been depicting the reality of his environment, rather than the fantasy created by Jacobean moralists.  

 

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More contemporary poets, like Carol Ann Duffy, covertly address notions of gender and homosexuality. In poems like ""Warming Her Pearls,"" she creates a female-to-female relationship that is unapologetic and assertive about its sexuality. ""She fans herself / whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering / each pearl.""  

 

And we, lucky readers, are not only invited to view a refreshing, and perhaps more accurate view of sex through such poems, but we can also marvel at their abilities to manipulate, and""bear with me""even flirt with language.  

 

""She being Brand"" is a scandalous poem by e.e. cummings, but it's also light-hearted and vibrant. ""he being Brand / new; and you / know consequently a / little stiff i was / careful of her"" (It gets much more risqué, believe you me.)  

 

Be comforted. There is more to love poetry than meets the Hallmark card.

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