Friday, August 24, 2007

Obscenity, I'm for it

Give me smut and nothing but!
A dirty novel I can't shut
If it's uncut
and unsbutl-le.

Tom Lehrer with what oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed.

These thoughts were prompted by this entertaining blog on erudite filth and why the division between porn and erotica is nonsense. (I must confess, though that there is something faintly disturbing about dozens of Guardian readers discussing what gets them going.)

The curious thing is that while smut is easier to get hold of these days, the market for poetry is dwindling all the time. I say this is curious, because poetry (lyric verse, certainly) is possibly the best way to purvey filth: a sort of rhythmical thrusting way to insinuate itself into the reader's emotions, if you like.

Filthy verse has a long and distinguished history, of course: the ancients were adepts, writers such as Byron and Baudelaire had their moments, a glorious last gasp of Gaelic Ireland was Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (the Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman (pretty sinuous when read aloud in Irish) while, in English, the supreme master was Lord Rochester.

But today? There is some good stuff , for instance, I like Neil Rollinson's poem which begins:

Fucking in zero gravity
is something else,
as Jan from the particle lab
ably convinced me.

Here's some more of his erotic verse (note he doesn't call it filth, for pity) but it's all tad literary. This, I think, is the reason why poetry in general doesn't get the sort of penetration it once had: to much intellectual stroking and licking without an aesthetic climax. So what better way to revive the art than adopting a more direct style to discuss everyone's favourite pre-occupation?

Of course, there is plenty of ribald verse out there, but from what I can tell (to be honest I haven't looked all that hard) it's mostly junk writing. Same applies to the market for erotic books (you know, the Mills and Boon with dangly bits marques that you see on sale in railway stations).

So, my question is this: am I missing out on lots of lyrical smut due to the follies of the publishing industry? If there was more reader friendly, well-written smut out there, do you reckon it would sell? Is this the way to revive traditional verse forms as an integral part of modern culture? I think it could just work.

It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination, for instance, to see Rochester as a precursor for some of the hip-hop lyrics which cause such pious angst. (Bling was, after all, popular in Restoration England).

I rise at eleven, I dine about two,
I get drunk before seven; and the next thing I do,
I send for my whore, when for fear of a clap,
I spend in her hand, and I spew in her lap.
Then we quarrel and scold, 'till I fall fast asleep,
When the bitch, growing bold, to my pocket does creep;
Then slyly she leaves me, and, to revenge the affront,
At once she bereaves me of money and cunt.
If by chance then I wake, hot-headed and drunk,
What a coil do I make for the loss of my punk!
I storm and I roar, and I fall in a rage,
And missing my whore, I bugger my page.
Then, crop-sick all morning, I rail at my men,
And in bed I lie yawning 'till eleven again.

Up with this sort of thing. Careful now.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I could write at length on this particular subject, but I feel a blog comment is not really the place for it. You've just got to look at the Erotic Review for a vision of what happens when the erotic gets too caught up in the literary. There is a happy medium to be had, I believe, but as both our sexual and literary proclivities are intensely personal and particular, I wonder if we're not better off just writing to one another. Collectively, I mean - that wasn't an invitation.

Puss

3:51 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Ha ha, but, I don't know if you've read it quite the way I intended, Puss. Really Tom Lehrer says it all: smut is (or should be fun). Filth which entertains and fascinates is all that's required, really.

Or to put it another way: people who want to share their sexual fantasies can go forth and multiply to another website. People who want to share amusing and ribald stuff are actively encouraged here.

I think we can all agree, for instance, that the following is WH Auden's finest verse.

The Anglican Dean of Hong Kong
Has a thing that is 12 inches long
He thinks that the waiters
Are admiring his gaiters
When he goes to the loo – but he's wrong.

10:49 pm  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

No Bill, I was agreeing with you. I think smut a fine British tradition, and count Roger's Profanisaurus among my favourite books. But there is a difference between being dirty for a laugh and being dirty for a turn-on. I guess in the best cases, they should meet - Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure being a case in point (for me at least). I remember a lover once commenting that I laughed a lot during sex, I replied that I thought it was supposed to be fun. Idiot.

Puss

9:15 pm  

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