As a writer who is somewhat known for writing sexy sonnets, I thought it might be fun to look at some older sonnets that may have inspired my own work. So here are a few in chronological order.
- Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20
This is believed to be one of the ‘fair youth’ sonnets–in other words, it is written not to the ‘dark lady’ of sonnets such as 127 (“Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black”), but to a younger male, who is the “master mistress of [Shakespeare’s] passion. While not overtly sexual, the sonnet does employ a perfect example of sexual humor and wordplay in its final couplet:
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.
- Monna Innominata Sonnet 2 by Christina Rossetti
Rossetti’s most famous poem, “Goblin Market” has often been touted as a hotbed of repressed Victorian female sexuality, so it’s not surprising that this sonnet’s metaphors verge on the coy: “…the budding of my tree/ that would not blossom yet for many a May.” But the poem’s redemption (and a stride into carnality) arise in the final line: “First touch of hand on hand–Did one but know!”
- A Church Romance by Thomas Hardy
This is a love at first sight poem, but there’s something so visceral about the first few lines that I’m tempted to call it ‘lust at first sight’ with the love arriving later in the poem:
She turned in the high pew, until her sight
Swept the west gallery, and caught its row
Of music-men with viol, book, and bow
Against the sinking sad tower-window light.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Sonnet XLI
No list of sexy sonnets would be complete without the eponymous Millay, whose scandalous (for the time) liaisons and disdain for monogamy are believed to have inspired much of her work. This poem gives us the ‘zipless fuck’ way before Erica Jong was capable of articulating the ABC let alone that famous phrase:
…let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.
- Sonnenizio on a Line from Drayton by Kim Addonizio
These days, of course, we can get away with a whole lot more blatant sexuality in our poems, and Kim Addonizio frequently does. The original Drayton sonnet is pretty hot too, but Kim takes us to a whole new level in her invented form. (You need to pick a word from the first line of an existing sonnet and use it in some form in each of your own lines.)
like that again, unbutton my shirt, part of you
wants to I can tell, I’m touching that part and it says
yes…Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the recent anthology, Hot Sonnets, edited by Moira Egan, where you will find a ton of sexy sonnet gems by writers like Marilyn Hacker, Molly Peacock and Julie Kane. Enjoy!