A new collection of erotic poetry, brought to my attention by the author, is available at Amazon entitled Concupiscent Consumption. The poetry is by LindaAnn LoSchiavo and the poems are written in blank verse, a rarity, and that makes me keen to review them. Not only do I get to discuss the content of the poems, but the abilities of the poet as well.
Let’s start with the first poem. LoSchiavo sets the tone with intimations and hints of childhood sadomasochism.
"Experiencing pizzichilli young—
All Neapolitan adults intent
On giving children sharp affection: kissed
With possibility of pain required—
I learned to squirm, becoming fruit, firm, ripe,
And ready to be pinched on shameless buds
Called cheeks. Italians like operatic
Intensity: emotions leaving marks..."
LoSchiavo isn’t going to start off with the usual erotic clichés—heat, fires, burning, floods, sparks, electricity, etc… She starts with pizzichilli—sharp little kisses. One imagines the nip of teeth but LoSchiavo only describes the kisses as leaving marks. Our erotic experiences as children, influenced by other children and adults for better or worse isn’t usually something that’s discussed in an erotic context. To do so, even when not in an erotic context, often leads to politically and culturally motivated accusations that have nothing to do with the actual experience. But self-censorship is it’s own kind of violence.
Interestingly, LoSchiavo’s poem will leave the reader confused. She will go on to describe the kisses as “cockpit bombs” that “assaults kids” who “try escaping yet endure”, “confused from then, torn, victimized.” This is after LoSchiavo has described herself as “becoming” fruit, firm and ripe—erotically charged imagery—and as ready to be pinched on “shameless buds”. Having gotten that far, more than a few readers will wonder if she means nipples, but in the next line she ham-handedly adds “called cheeks”, so ham-handed that one wonders if she’s correcting the reader or correcting herself. But the whiplash continues. After describing herself as being victimized, she nevertheless asks if and when she should live “for opportunities like this” [italics being my own]. There will surely be those who would characterize this behavior as typical of sexual abuse. On the other hand, one’s first erotic experiences can be ambiguous without there being any abuse. The erotic tension between awakening desire and ambivalence toward the same is a theme that runs through a number of LoSchiavo’s poems.
The overall impression, at least in the first poem, is of a poet not quite in control of her subject matter or poetic technique. She writes poetically rather than writing poetry. And one may write an ambiguous poem deliberately, but there’s a thin line between the ambiguous and confusion. Is one supposed to treat this poem as an erotic poem, signaled by the conventional erotic imagery of “fruit, firm and ripe”, or as something more troubling?
Part of the poem’s confusion arises, I think, from the awkward blank verse and poor punctuation. LoSchiavo will leave out articles and syntactic connectives, or simply opt for poor grammar if it achieves an iambic line: “With possibility” instead of “With [the] possibility”; “from then” instead of “from then [on]”; “mind and soul reenter fate’s… pain… know compromised enjoyment” instead of “mind and soul reenter fate’s…pain… know[ing that] compromised enjoyment”. This sort of awkwardness adds to an unfortunate impression of hesitance, uncertainty and impatience—qualities that, to a greater or lesser extent, are found in the poems that follow—and they lend the poems the feeling of sketches and first drafts. An example of this might be the poem Vagina as Orchid Boat.
Chinese call the vagina “orchid boat,”
The blotchy darkness universal man
First changes places through on win-lose seas
Of birth, still wearing this name on his tongue,
Air-tight, invading dreams’ closed crescent eyes...
The first stanza almost reads like notes for further development and I get lost in LoSchiavo’s gnomic grammar. What does “first changes places through on win-lose seas/ Of birth” mean?
All that said, writing traditional verse isn’t easy (and good for her for trying). She avoids the stock, clichéd imagery that so often mars erotic poetry while infusing her poetry with an impish sense of humor. Invitation to a Kiss, one of her best poems in my opinion (along with Soda Jerk), begins:
Some kisses are consumer errors. You’d
Try taking them back if you could. I’m hooked
On kisses warming me like cognac, poured
On my lips, heat transferring. [...]
Flashes of humor are found throughout her poems along with refreshingly playful but also charged associations.
All winter, fig trees huddle under tarps, Enjoying long pajama parties, stark Naked, their branches tied, unable to stretch. This hibernation—their adolescence— Creates desired sweetness through its stem. [...] ~ Sticky Figs
I say charged because, and perhaps not intentionally, the imagery may remind the reader of LoSchiavo’s first poem. With pajama parties, the reader is drawn back into the world of childhood, of nakedness, of tied “branches”, or bondage, and the inability to stretch. The first poem’s themes of childhood, the erotic awakening and confusion of sadomasochism, matures into an adolescence desiring that “sweetness through its stem”.
LoSchiavo’s poems The Baby-Sitting and The Girl Can’t Help It turn this tension into a source of eroticism in its own right. Clearly, in The Baby-Sitting, “love’s stupendous spectacle” is not where the erotic tension lies, but rather (and presumably) in someone else’s “master bedroom” with someone else’s child sleeping down the hall. On the other hand, the poet doesn’t clarify who she’s sleeping with or when, only that “we stayed up late” when baby-sitting. For all we know she could be referring to the baby’s father; and there again a kind of ambiguity arises. The reader might well question the reliability of the poet/narrator. Was this really love? How old was she? And how old was he? LoSchiavo may have intended none of this, but intentionally or not, the gnomic qualities of her poetry make what’s not said as important as what is.
Because it immediately follows The Baby-Sitting, LoSchiavo’s poem The Girl Can’t Help It almost seems like a commentary on the former poem.
Across America, most mothers hissed,
“Don’t be like her!” A movie star famed for
Her simmering stoked sex appeal was not
Most women’s norm in 1956.
The poet is unapologetic and the lovemaking, both public (in a drive-in) and private (inside the car) could almost be a metaphor for the book itself—both revealing, “as car springs swayed, we gave it away”, and ambiguous by virtue of being in the car. The reader, to an extent, must draw their own conclusions as to what’s going on in LoSchiavo’s book. At moment’s she’s explicit, but mostly one has the feeling she would rather maintain some distance with poetic gestures, figurative language and such stock erotic imagery as is found in Kinetic Kissing. Though that’s also the most interesting facet of the book—a flawed woman writing flawed poetry that’s full of ambiguity.
And the whole can be read as a sort of autobiography beginning and in childhood, with the eroticism wakened by ambiguously bruising kisses, and ending with the unambiguous My Dominatrix:
He’s staring at my breasts. They’re needling him,
Restrained and forced to obey whips and canes,
Skyscraper pain controlling time lust topped.
Men tell me that I’m good at this. [....]
Where she has fully realizing the erotic awakenings experienced in childhood. She is now the one tying the branches, the one restraining, leaving marks, and drawing the desired sweetness from the stem.
All in all, I would call LoSchiavo’s short collection of poems the work of a poet acquainted with the tropes of poetry, with meter, figurative language and metaphor, but not one who has mastered them—which isn’t to say her poems don’t have their inspired moments: “Lovemaking is the smile sewn through my skin,” or “my willow soul seeks moisture under dirt”. These are fine lines. Also, I think her collection will appeal less to those seeking explicit eroticism and more to those interested in the interior landscape of a woman’s sexual awakening and maturation.
Your words and steady gaze have made me blush. I drop five dollars in your jar and leave Without my shake because I’m staying here Two more weeks and imagining how we Will taste right after, mixed in with the dark. [...] ~ Soda Jerk
- The Book One poem per page, nice font, and readable.
- Comparisons This book compares to Libidacoria by 4play by Kristie LeVangie in that these books may be thought of as autobiographical or semi-autobiographical.
- You and your Lover Trying too hard to be poetry and literary to set any fires, but if you’re fantasizing about tying your lover up or down, you will find a kindred spirit.
- Embarrassment The beautiful cover will make it obvious to everyone on the bus and subway what you’re reading.
Look & Feel ♥♥♥♥♥