Advice

Sex Advice From Poets

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Q: The guy I like showed me his poetry, and it’s terrible! What do I do? A: Get out while you still can.

David LDavid Lehman

People always joke that the phrase "let me read you some of my poetry" is the best way to lose a girl. Why is that? How can I use my poetry to seduce someone?
The problem is, you are writing too many of your poems with your dick in your hand and the gun still in the back of the toilet where Clemenza planted it.

I’ve written a love poem for my friend, who has no idea I’m interested in her. I want to give it to her for her upcoming birthday but I’m afraid that might be coming on too strong. What should I do?
About yachts it is said, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” There is a vague parallel in the case of birthday poems written for women and not given to them, which implies a faintheartedness that is unattractive in the male of the species. Maybe you should work out in a gym or do some manual labor and then see how you feel.

My girlfriend thinks pornography is cheating so I promised to stop looking – but I didn’t. I feel bad for lying. How can I convince her that it’s not infidelity?
Do not try to convince her that porn is okay. That dog won’t hunt. You seem to have painted yourself into a corner here, and the only smart thing you can do is to lie. It’s in everyone’s best interest. She gets to feel virtuous; you get to get off on pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt naked in a dungeon, and it’s guilt free if you can convince yourself that your raging libido requires such measures in lieu of bonking other dames. It is infinitely easier to win that argument with yourself than to win an argument on porn with your girlfriend.

This guy I’ve been dating is a writer and things have really been going well between us. The problem is that he showed me some of his work last week and I didn’t know how to react — it was terrible! I know it’s a huge part of his life, so I lied and said I liked it. Is this a dealbreaker? I can’t lie forever.
Yes. Get out while you can. Bad poets have an impossible amount of vanity and a constant need for attention. You can either break up with him and continue to praise his palaver or you can continue to see him and end up saying some really mean things to a decent guy. You will save yourself a lot of anguish by making a clean break now – although this could be said, come to think of it, about relationships with partners who are not poets, too. If you do head for the exits, do not divulge the reason. He’ll expect you to say something like, “It’s not you, dude. It’s me,” so don’t disappoint him twice in the same conversation.

My girlfriend wants to cut her hair short, but I really like ladies with long hair. I know it's ultimately her decision, but I think as her boyfriend I should have some say. Am I being a controlling prick?
You probably are a prick, but life’s more complicated than that, and the Zen answer to your dilemma is to watch Hitchcock’s Vertigo, alone, and then cut your own hair short.

I have trouble speaking to women in bars. A simple "hello" always feels abrupt, and yet most "lines" are cheesy. Any advice for how to get things started?
Memorize Keats’s sonnet beginning with the line, “When I have fears that I may cease to be.” Practice reading it aloud until you can speak the lines naturally and have committed them to memory. Once you have successfully done this, move on to the same poet’s sonnet on first reading Chapman’s Homer, his odes on melancholy and on the Grecian urn, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” and “To Autumn,” and, for variety and contrast, Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and “Ode to the West Wind” and Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and “Work Without Hope.” Once you have memorized these poems and can unfailingly produce them at a moment’s notice, you will be a better man, and questions about breaking the ice and avoiding cheesy lines will cease to bother your teeming brain.

If "The Ezra Pound" was sex position, what would it be?
The step-over toe hold.

 

Jill Alexander EssbaumJill Alexander Essbaum

What’s the best thing about sleeping with a poet?
Couplets come in twos.

People always joke that the phrase "let me read you some of my poetry" is the best way to lose a girl. Why is that? How can I use my poetry to seduce someone?
Do they joke that? The best way I’ve heard to lose a girl is to blindfold her in the woods and spin her around really fast then leave her there without a compass or a map. How to seduce someone with a poem? Tell the girl that you wrote it exclusively for her. But do remember to find / replace every printed instance of your last girlfriend’s name.

Do you have any recommendations for some sexy literature to give my bookish girlfriend for the holidays?
Little Birds, Anaïs Nin. The Kinsey Report. Letters to Penthouse Forum. A stand-alone copy of The Song of Solomon. The collected lyrics of Barry White. Also, I wrote a book called Harlot and it has, as its cover art, a sketch of an ample-bottomed woman hugging a giant, erect phallus. Not the most subtle choice, but hey, whatever gets the job done.

I’ve written a love poem for my friend, who has no idea I’m interested in her. I want to give it to her for her upcoming birthday but I’m afraid that might be coming on too strong. What should I do?
Look, I’m kind of not the poet to ask. The path behind me’s littered with rose-scented vellums onto which sonnets of limerence and desire have been inked. My advice is to go for it. But, it’ll probably backfire.

My girlfriend thinks pornography is cheating so I promised to stop looking – but I didn’t. I feel bad for lying. How can I convince her that it’s not infidelity?
Never make a promise you can’t keep. Also: learn how to clear your cache, brother.

I have trouble speaking to women in bars. A simple "hello" always feels abrupt, and yet most "lines" are cheesy. Any advice for how to get things started?
You know how sometimes a person will approach you with a card that reads “Hello, I am deaf” and it’s attached to a sticker of the American flag or something else small and non-essential that he then expects you to buy? Make up some cards that read “Hello, I am smitten” and attach them to a sticker with your phone number printed on it. Failing that, send the lady another of what she’s drinking.

I'm a self-described feminist who just got out of a relationship. I've been dating again, and I always end up feeling a little offended when a guy asks me out and doesn't pay. I know that sounds hypocritical – and it's not like I don't have a job – but I can't help it. Can you believe in "equal rights" and still want a guy to buy you drinks?
If he asks you out, he should pay. Period.

My best friend is gay and has very conservative parents, who have often assume I'm his girlfriend. He's planning to come out to them over Thanksgiving, but he's asked me to come. I'm all for being supportive, but I don't want to get in the way of a family issue — especially since it will be easy for him to back out if his "girlfriend" is there. Should I decline the invite?
Stay out of it. It’s not your business. And anyway, beards are going out of style.

If The Ezra Pound was a sex position, what would it be?
It would be less shuddering than the Shakespeare, less taboo than the Dickinson, more euphemistic than the Anne Sexton, cleaner than the E.E. Cummings, less coy than the Sara Teasdale, more flaccid than the Thomas Hardy. Something like doing your chick pressed against the shower wall under lukewarm water.

 

Mark BibbinsMark Bibbins

What’s the best thing about sleeping with a poet?
Good books next to the bed.

People always joke that the phrase "let me read you some of my poetry" is the best way to lose a girl. Why is that? How can I use my poetry to seduce someone?
It may be an even better way to lose a guy, but never mind. It depends on the poems, and on the girl, right? It’s as unrealistic to say that there’s a poet inside us all as it is to say there’s an architect inside us all: “Why can’t I make a building?” isn’t a question you would ask if you studied marine biology. And serenading a date with a saxophone probably won’t go well if you’ve never taken a lesson.

I’ve written a love poem for my friend, who has no idea I’m interested in her.  I want to give it to her for her upcoming birthday but I’m afraid that might be coming on too strong.  What should I do? 
Now I’m wondering about the differences between a “love poem” and an “interested poem.” If you’re worried about coming on too strong, maybe start out with one of the latter and see how that goes. If you show her something, do it before (or after) the birthday, then your intentions will be clear— no ambiguity about it being a “birthday poem.”

This guy I’ve been dating is a writer and things have really been going well between us. The problem is that he showed me some of his work last week and I didn’t know how to react — it was terrible! I know it’s a huge part of his life, so I lied and said I liked it. Is this a dealbreaker? I can’t lie forever. 
If his last three books got raves in the Times, there’s a chance you need to cut him some slack. Are you more concerned that you don’t like his writing, or that you lied to spare his feelings? Is he being honest with himself when he says he’s a writer? Joan Cusack has a great line in Working Girl: “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.”

My girlfriend wants to cut her hair short, but I really like ladies with long hair. I know it's ultimately her decision, but I think as her boyfriend I should have some say. Am I being a controlling prick? 
Your say ends at “I think you look so beautiful with long hair.” Until she cuts it off, then keep your say to yourself.

I have trouble speaking to women in bars. A simple "hello" always feels abrupt, and yet most "lines" are cheesy. Any advice for how to get things started? 
Humor is one of the best ice-breakers we have, and something amusing is bound to happen in a room full of drunk people that you could use to start a conversation with someone, instead of a “line.”  

I'm a self-described feminist who just got out of a relationship. I've been dating again, and I always end up feeling a little offended when a guy asks me out and doesn't pay. I know that sounds hypocritical – and it's not like I don't have a job – but I can't help it. Can you believe in "equal rights" and still want a guy to buy you drinks?
There’s nothing wrong with splitting the bill, but whatever the gender(s), if you ask someone on a date, you should offer to pay.

If The Ezra Pound was a sex position, what would it be?
It would last longer than it should, you’d never know what’s going on, and it would get you thrown in an asylum.