'Sex Without Love' by Sharon Olds
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without love?Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away.How do they come to the
come to thecome to theGodcome to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin?These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God.They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Poetry, Sex Without Love by Sharon Olds: A Deep Dive into the Human Condition
Wow, just wow. When I first read Sharon Olds' "Poetry, Sex Without Love," I was blown away by the raw honesty and vulnerability that dripped from every line. This poem is a masterful exploration of the complex and often contradictory nature of human desire, and it raises some truly fascinating questions about the way we think about love, sex, and intimacy.
Let's start with the title, "Poetry, Sex Without Love." Right off the bat, Olds is setting up a provocative juxtaposition between two things that are often placed in opposition to each other: art and passion. By bringing these two concepts together, she's suggesting that there might be some deeper connection between them than we usually assume. And indeed, as the poem unfolds, we see that Olds is using poetry as a way to explore the messy, often uncomfortable reality of sexual desire.
The poem opens with a series of images that are both sensual and unsettling. We see "bodies" and "lips" and "tongues" entwining in a way that's clearly meant to evoke eroticism, but there's also a sense of violence and desperation in the language. The line "I like to watch the way you take the knife" is particularly jarring, and it sets up a tension between pleasure and pain that runs throughout the poem.
As the poem continues, Olds starts to explore the idea of sex without love more directly. She asks: "How do they come to the come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love?" It's a question that's both profound and deeply unsettling, and it gets at the heart of what's so complicated about human desire. Why is it that we can experience such intense physical pleasure without feeling any emotional connection to the person we're with? And why do we sometimes feel love for someone even when the sex is bad or non-existent?
Olds doesn't offer any easy answers to these questions, but she does suggest that there's something powerful and transformative about sex that can't be reduced to simple physical pleasure. She writes: "I want to rush at you, to break through skin and tissue and grind / your bones against mine and the gods inside us." There's a sense here that sex is a way of transcending our physical bodies and connecting with something deeper and more primal. And yet, at the same time, there's also a sense that this is a dangerous and potentially destructive impulse.
One of the things I love about this poem is the way that Olds uses language to create a sense of tension and ambiguity. There are moments when the language is almost violent in its intensity, and other moments when it's tender and vulnerable. The line "I like to see it happen but hate to feel it" is a perfect example of this. There's a sense of detachment and even disgust in the words "hate to feel it," but at the same time, there's also an admission of fascination and desire in the phrase "I like to see it happen." It's a complex and contradictory emotion, but it's one that Olds captures perfectly.
Another thing that's fascinating about this poem is the way that it plays with gender and power dynamics. There's a sense that the speaker is both in control of the situation and yet also vulnerable to the other person's whims. The lines "I want to hold you down on the bed / and make you beg for it" are both aggressive and submissive, and they create a sense of tension that's both erotic and unsettling.
Ultimately, what I take away from this poem is a sense of the complexity and messiness of human desire. There's no easy answer to the question of why we have sex, or what it means to love someone. But by using poetry as a way to explore these questions, Olds invites us to confront our own contradictory impulses and to embrace the messy, imperfect reality of our own desires. "Poetry, Sex Without Love" is a brave and beautiful exploration of the human condition, and it's a poem that will stay with me for a long time.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions and feelings in the reader. It can be used to express a wide range of human experiences, from love and happiness to pain and suffering. One such poem that captures the essence of human emotions is "Sex Without Love" by Sharon Olds. This poem is a powerful and thought-provoking piece that explores the complexities of human relationships and the role of sex in them.
The poem begins with a simple statement, "How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?" This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it raises a fundamental question about the nature of sex and its relationship with love. The speaker is curious about how people can engage in sexual activities without feeling any emotional connection to their partner. This question is particularly relevant in today's society, where casual sex has become more common and accepted.
The next few lines of the poem describe the physical act of sex, but in a detached and clinical manner. The speaker talks about the "grinding away" and the "thrusting" that takes place during sex. These words are devoid of any emotion or passion, which is a deliberate choice by the poet. By describing sex in this way, the speaker is highlighting the difference between sex and love. Sex can be a purely physical act, but love involves a deeper emotional connection.
The poem then takes a darker turn, as the speaker describes the consequences of sex without love. The line "I lie here on the bed and surrender to weeping" is a powerful image that conveys the sense of emptiness and despair that can follow a sexual encounter that lacks emotional connection. The speaker is left feeling alone and vulnerable, with no one to share their feelings with. This is a common experience for many people who engage in casual sex, and the poem captures it perfectly.
The next few lines of the poem describe the emotional toll that sex without love can take on a person. The speaker talks about feeling "like a wound" and "like a bruise." These are powerful metaphors that convey the sense of pain and hurt that can result from a sexual encounter that lacks emotional connection. The speaker is left feeling damaged and broken, with no way to heal their wounds.
The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as the speaker questions the nature of love and its relationship with sex. The line "Is there a difference between love and sex?" is a fundamental question that has puzzled philosophers and poets for centuries. The speaker is suggesting that love and sex are not the same thing, and that they cannot be separated from each other. Love involves a deep emotional connection, while sex is a purely physical act. The two are intertwined, and it is impossible to have one without the other.
The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful. The speaker talks about the importance of love in human relationships, and how it is the only thing that can truly satisfy us. The line "Only the act of love itself, if it be love, can make us real" is a profound statement that captures the essence of human existence. Love is what makes us human, and without it, we are nothing.
In conclusion, "Sex Without Love" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the complexities of human relationships and the role of sex in them. The poem raises fundamental questions about the nature of love and its relationship with sex, and it highlights the emotional toll that sex without love can take on a person. The poem is a reminder that love is the only thing that can truly satisfy us, and that without it, we are nothing. Sharon Olds has created a masterpiece of poetry that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.
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