The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present


There is a deep tradition of eroticism in American poetry. Thoughtful, provocative, moving, and sometimes mirthful, the poems collected in The Best American Erotic Poems celebrate this exuberant sensuality.

These poems range across the varied landscapes of love and sex and desire — from the intimate parts of the body to the end of an affair, from passion to solitary self-pleasure. With candor and imagination, they capture the delights and ...

See more details below
$13.76 price
(Save 14%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (13) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $8.68   
  • Used (3) from $1.99   
The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99 price


There is a deep tradition of eroticism in American poetry. Thoughtful, provocative, moving, and sometimes mirthful, the poems collected in The Best American Erotic Poems celebrate this exuberant sensuality.

These poems range across the varied landscapes of love and sex and desire — from the intimate parts of the body to the end of an affair, from passion to solitary self-pleasure. With candor and imagination, they capture the delights and torments of sex and sexuality, nudity, love, lust, and the secret life of fantasy.

David Lehman, the distinguished editor of the celebrated Best American Poetry series, has culled a witty, titillating, and alluring collection that starts with Francis Scott Key, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Hart Crane, encompasses Frank O'Hara, Anne Sexton, John Updike, Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Kevin Young, and Sharon Olds, and concludes with the rising stars of a whole new generation of versifiers, including Sarah Manguso, Ravi Shankar, and Brenda Shaughnessy.

In a section of the book that is sure to prompt discussion and further reading, the living poets write about their favorite works of erotic writing.

This book will delight, surprise, and inspire.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416537465
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/5/2008
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 972,898
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lehman, series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His books of poetry include New and Selected Poems, When a Woman Loves a Man, and The Daily Mirror. He teaches in the New School graduate writing program and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Introduction by David Lehman xv

[organized chronologically by year of poet's birth]

francis scott key (1780-1843)

"On a Young Lady's Going into a Shower Bath" 1

edgar allan poe (1809-1849)

"Song" ["I saw thee on thy bridal day"] 2

walt whitman (1819-1892)

"I Sing the Body Electric" 3

george henry boker (1823-1890)

from Sonnets: A Sequence on Profane Love 11

emily dickinson (1830-1886)

"Come slowly -- Eden!" (#211) 12

"Wild Nights -- Wild Nights!" (#249) 13

"He fumbles at your Soul" (#315) 14

"I groped for him before I knew" (#1555) 15

"In Winter in my Room" (#1670) 16

emma lazarus (1849-1887)

"Assurance" 18

edith wharton (1862-1937)

"Terminus" 19

robert frost (1874-1963)

"The Subverted Flower" 22

amy lowell (1874-1925)

"Anticipation" 25

gertrude stein (1874-1946)

from Lifting Belly 26

wallace stevens (1879-1955)

"Peter Quince at the Clavier" 32

william carlos williams (1883-1963)

"Young Sycamore" 35

conrad aiken (1889-1973)

"Sea Holly" 36

edna st. vincent millay (1892-1950)

Sonnet ["I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex"] 38

e. e. cummings (1894-1962)

"as / we lie side by side / my little breasts [...]" 39

h. phelps putnam (1894-1948)

"Sonnets to Some Sexual Organs" 40

hart crane (1899-1932)

"Episode of Hands" 42

langston hughes (1902-1967)

"Desire" 43

kenneth rexroth (1905-1982)

from The Love Poems of Marichiko 44

w. h. auden (1907-1973)

"The Platonic Blow" 48

elizabeth bishop (1911-1979)

"It Is Marvellous..." 53

j. v. cunningham (1911-1985)

"It Was in Vegas" 54

tennessee williams (1911-1983)

"Life Story" 55

muriel rukeyser (1913-1980)

"What I See" 57

may swenson (1913-1989)

"A New Pair" 58

isabella stewart gardner (1915-1981)

"The Milkman" 59

ruth stone (born 1915)

"Coffee and Sweet Rolls" 60

thomas mcgrath (1916-1990)

from Letter to an Imaginary Friend 62

robert duncan (1919-1988)

"The Torso" (Passage 18) 64

charles bukowski (1920-1994)

"Hunk of Rock" 67

hayden carruth (born 1921)

"Assignment" 75

richard wilbur (born 1921)

"A Late Aubade" 76

james schuyler (1923-1991)

"A photograph" 78

louis simpson (born 1923)

"Summer Storm" 80

robin blaser (born 1925)

"2nd Tale: Return" 81

kenneth koch (1925-2002)

"To Orgasms" 83

a.r. ammons (1926-2001)

"Their Sex Life" 85

paul blackburn (1926-1971)

"The Once-Over" 86

allen ginsberg (1926-1997)

"Love Poem on Theme by Whitman" 88

james merrill (1926-1995)

"Peeled Wands" 89

frank o'hara (1926-1966)

"To the Harbormaster" 90

david wagoner (born 1926)

"Trying to Write a Poem While the Couple in the Apartment Overhead Make Love" 91

galway kinnell (born 1927)

"Last Gods" 92

donald hall (born 1928)

"When I Was Young" 94

anne sexton (1928-1974)

"December 11th" 95

richard howard (born 1929)

"Move Still, Still So" 96

adrienne rich (born 1929)

"(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)" 103

sylvia plath (1932-1963)

"The Beekeeper's Daughter" 104

john updike (born 1932)

"Fellatio" 105

mark strand (born 1934)

"The Couple" 106

ted berrigan (1934-1983)

"Dinner at George & Katie Schneeman's" 110

russell edson (born 1935)

"Conjugal" 111

lucille clifton (born 1936)

"to a dark moses" 112

frederick seidel (born 1936)

"Heart Art" 113

marge piercy (born 1936)

"Salt in the Afternoon" 115

c. k. williams (born 1936)

"Ethics" 116

charles simic (born 1938)

"Breasts" 118

billy collins (born 1941)

"Pinup" 121

stephen dobyns (born 1941)

"Desire" 123

robert hass (born 1941)

"Against Botticelli" 126

linda gregg (born 1942)

"Kept Burning and Distant" 128

sharon olds (born 1942)

"The Sisters of Sexual Treasure" 129

louise glück (born 1943)

"The Encounter" 130

sandra alcosser (born 1944)

"By the Nape" 131

paul violi (born 1944)

"Resolution" 132

robert olen butler (born 1945)

"Walter Raleigh, courtier and explorer, beheaded by King James I, 1618" 134

alan feldman (born 1945)

"A Man and a Woman" 135

bernadette mayer (born 1945)

"First turn to me..." 136

honor moore (born 1945)

"Disparu" 139

star black (born 1946)

"The Evangelist" 140

ellen bass (born 1947)

"Gate C22" 141

ai (born 1947)

"Twenty-Year Marriage" 143

jane kenyon (1947-1995)

"The Shirt" 144

yusef komunyakaa (born 1947)

"Lust" 145

molly peacock (born 1947)

"She Lays" 146

james cummins (born 1948)

"The Body Is the Flower" 147

heather mchugh (born 1948)

"Gig at Big Al's" 149

lynn emanuel (born 1949)

"Dreaming of Rio at Sixteen" 150

denis johnson (born 1949)

"Poem" 151

dana gioia (born 1950)

"Alley Cat Love Song" 152

paul jones (born 1950)

"To His Penis" 153

william wadsworth (born 1950)

"The Snake in the Garden Considers Daphne" 155

marc cohen (born 1951)

"It Never Happened" 156

judith hall (born 1951)

"In an Empty Garden" 157

cynthia huntington (born 1951)

from Shot Up in the Sexual Revolution (The True Adventures of Suzy Creamcheese) 159

paul muldoon (born 1951)

"The Little Black Book" 161

bob flanagan (1952-1996)

from Slave Sonnets ["I've been a shit and I hate fucking you now"] 163

dorianne laux (born 1952)

"The Shipfitter's Wife" 164

peter serchuk (born 1952)

"The Naked Women" 165

dennis cooper (born 1953)

"After School, Street Football, Eighth Grade" 166

mark doty (born 1953)

"Lilacs in NYC" 168

tony hoagland (born 1953)

"Visitation" 171

richard jones (born 1953)

"Wan Chu's Wife in Bed" 172

harryette mullen (date of birth unknown)

"Pretty Piece of Tail" 173

kim addonizio (born 1954)

"The Divorcée and Gin" 175

sarah arvio (born 1954)

"Mirrors" 176

dean young (born 1955)

"Platypus" 178

amy gerstler (born 1956)

"Ode to Semen" 179

sarah maclay (born 1956)

"My Lavenderdom" 180

cecilia woloch (born 1956)

"Bareback Pantoum" 181

catherine bowman (born 1957)

"Demographics" 183

ed smith (1957-2005)

"Poem" 185

nin andrews (born 1958)

"How to Have an Orgasm: Examples" 186

carl phillips (born 1959)

"I See a Man" 188

denise duhamel (born 1961)

"House-Sitting" 189

elizabeth alexander (born 1962)

"At Seventeen" 191

olena kalytiak davis (born 1963)

"Francesca Says More" 192

beth gylys (born 1964)

"Preference" 196

lisa williams (born 1966)

"On Not Using the Word 'Cunt' in a Poem" 197

deborah landau (born 1967)

"August in West Hollywood" 199

jeffrey mcdaniel (born 1967)

"When a man hasn't been kissed" 200

richard siken (born 1967)

"Little Beast" 201

jennifer l. knox (born 1968)

"Another Motive for Metaphor" 204

janice erlbaum (born 1969)

"The Temp" 205

jenny factor (born 1969)

"Misapprehension" 207

cate marvin (born 1969)

"Me and Men" 208

catherine wagner (born 1969)

"Lover" 210

c. dale young (born 1969)

"Maelstrom" 211

brenda shaughnessy (born 1970)

"Voluptuary" 213

kevin young (born 1970)

"Étude" 215

jill alexander essbaum (born 1971)

"On Reading Poorly Transcribed Erotica" 216

beth ann fennelly (born 1971)

"Why We Shouldn't Write Love Poems, or If We Must, Why We Shouldn't Publish Them" 217

terrance hayes (born 1971)

"Preface" 219

catherine wing (born 1972)

"Eye-Fucked" 220

ross martin (born 1973)

"Body Cavity" 221

sarah manguso (born 1974)

"Reverence" 224

ravi shankar (born 1975)

"Lucia" 225

laura cronk (born 1977)

"From the Other" 226

danielle pafunda (born 1977)

"Courtesy" 227

michael quattrone (born 1977)

"February" 228

maggie wells (born 1977)

"Sonnet from the Groin" 229

noah michelson (born 1978)

"Valentine" 230

heather christle (born 1980)

"Letter to My Love" 231

rachel shukert (born 1980)

"Subterranean Gnomesick Blues; or, the Gnome Who Whet My Fleshy Tent." 232

Contributors' Notes 235

Acknowledgments 285

Index of Poems 293

Index of Poets 297

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2011

    What are they talking about?

    There was only one poem in the book that was so obvious what they were talking about. The others, I thought, were poorly written. Sorry, I wasted $12 on this book. Should've been titled, "The Worst American Erotic Poems".

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)