Many times, when I have been interviewed about my books and my inspiration as a poet, people ask me why I focus on the erotic. I even remember that someone asked me why my first book has the title “EROTIC.” It is true that I write and perform a lot of poems about sex, and I have built somewhat of a reputation as an “erotic” poet. I totally enjoy painting exquisite word pictures about the joys of sex. However, there always was more to my love of the erotic – and it is more than the sexual.
My inspiration for naming my first book “EROTIC” dates back to a year before the book came out, when I was a part of a writer’s workshop based on Audre Lorde and her essay on the use and power of the erotic (“The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic As Power”, 1978.) She was an ardent feminist, lobbyist for women’s rights and a powerful writer, who – I was glad to learn in my research – had a Barbadian lineage. She boldly declared that the erotic was misused by men to be limited only to physical sensation alone, but was much more than that. Specifically, this is what she said:
The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic and plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.
The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves. (http://www.metahistory.org/guidelines/EroticUses.php)
It was at that workshop that I had an epiphany: “erotic” doesn’t have to be sexual, but it definitely is sensual, engaging the senses for an intense experience. Whenever I write – whether about sex, food, music, anger, pain or joy – this realization is the foundation. It truly is an “internal sense of satisfaction” that is so intense that magnifies, instead of suppresses, true feeling. I write a lot about sex, yes, but I go to great lengths to avoid pornographic literature that is only about the act itself. I always try to lift the reader into the ecstasy behind the act, for without true connection, the mechanics are meaningless.
My two first books contain a lot of ‘erotic’ poetry in the ‘traditional’ sense – a lot of poetry dealing with sex itself. That being said, I deliberately chose to incorporate poems that are more about the emotions behind being in love as well, as a contrast to the penetrative thrust of the ‘sex’ poems. Outside of my books, however, I have a lot of poems in my blog that run the gamut from an intensely enjoyable jazz concert to the searing pain of dealing with the loss of a relationship. I have focused a lot on the traditional ‘erotic’; perhaps, a little too much. It is time to diversify myself so I am not seen only as an ‘erotic’ poet. No, let me rephrase that. I want to be seen as an erotic poet, just not one that is focused only on metaphors describing sex. I want to be seen as an erotic poet from Audre Lorde’s expanded definition of “…experienc[ing] the fullness of … depth of feeling.”
To this end, I have thought long and hard about the direction that I want to take my art – my written and my spoken word, my performances, and the PassionPoet brand as a whole. I fully embrace the sexual side of Passion, but, as I always say in my introductory spoken word piece that starts off my performances, “Passion isn’t always sex.” To this end, I will be crafting and showcasing other aspects of erotic living, other aspects of engaging with your environment in a Passionate way. I want to flesh out my personal motto – #LivePassionately – in more areas of my writing and performances. I also plan to rebrand my author page, and I’m giving advance warnings because when it does change, the URL to the page will have to be amended in all of your bookmarks or favourites lists. For now, let’s go forward into the fullness of the erotic; let’s Live Passionately!