NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Vol 17.2: Fall 2017 - Page 80

essay By Elena Karina Byrne Put Your Hands On Me: Poetry’s Erotic Art “W H A T E V E R E L S E W E M A Y S A Y Words are so erotic. They never tire of their coupling. No one I had ever met exhibited such a spontaneous mastery of language as Stanley Kunitz did — dedicated gardener, teacher, and poet, who lived inside his love of the art form until his death at age 100. I interviewed him at Sarah Lawrence College my senior year and loved him instantly. “Words are so erotic. They never tire of their coupling.” This is an aphorism, illuminating as a sacred mantra. Words are erotic, physical, always alive; they are a hinge to bodily and intellectual desire. Even before they create formal perfections of image and idea, they make sounds that move, and, yes, that make us sway and swoon. This is my mind’s motion, and this, my fealty. During those college years I named my love “Cookamunga Wilderness,” because the more I loved him, the more he was transformed into an onomatopoetic wilderness of desire. He did a “Hopkins” to me, “parted me leaf and leaf.” I wanted to devour him. I wanted to “vowel” him to death. The poetry-brain finds its way through aural recognition, coupling sounds and words the way babies embody and mouth their first attempts at language as shaped vowels and consonants, engendering a new love on the page of the imagination. I can now say that I am grateful for those silly articulated endearments, those moments arisen out of the sweet, inarticulate, carnal unconscious. I love it when a word doesn’t exist, the “invented” word — it provides all the more room for wild analogy, for intimate exchange. We know Shakespeare invented more than two thousand words and phrases, including lonely, barefaced, hurry, hint, leapfrog, fretful, radiance and, of course, obscene…. Words are erotic. Imagine them, sometimes peculiar and ripe like Galway Kinnell’s gorgeous blackberries, falling “almost unbidden on the tongue.” They want to surprise the mouth, the meaning; they want to copulate there, to procreate; they want to explore their own bodily pleasure and that of their partners. Language in poetry looks for an accomplice. Each word is a cannibal, always hungry, voracious. The muse, a moon-haired cannibal, is always painfully in love. Compelled, consumed, consummated. As Kunitz also said: “The thing that eats the heart is mostly he лt1Յͥɔ)ɔݥѠ́ѥє)ͱ䁙͕́%́1Յ)1ѕ٥܁ݥѠ 5̰)IЁ!́ɥ́ѡЁѼ)ͅ她胊qٕѡ)݅ѥݔ݅Ёлtȁ)M儁Mȁȁչ)ѥ Ё́ѡq͕)ͽ܁ѡ͕ѥ)ѠѽՕѡɅ)ٕɕɹٕ)ͭѼͭ䀼)ѼѕѼt]Ѡ)͕ѥх䁙ȁɹ)͍͹̰Mȁٕ́ݥѠ)չѕ͔1Յ)ɽѥѼѡ̰́)ɕɹٕ͕́)Ѡѡɽ՝̰䁥)`$LPLLL8LT0<dt+P=91!10)=A=4]5%I%P