Sunday, May 20, 2007

Alan Davies: Rave

Blurbage: “The erotic works of Alan Davies hold a unique place in contemporary literature. They do not focus on the fantasy of sex, underwear and velvet ropes, but on the language of sex and the social framework of sex in a very sexy way…. Rave is avant-garde poetry as spice.”

Well. Maybe my own definition of “erotic” writing is a trifle narrow, even self-serving, but I’ve always felt that “erotic" writing shouldn’t just be about sex, but ought to have a particular effect on the reader – you know, the sort of stuff, that get you, well, er, aroused.

That’s definitely not happening in the 2nd long poem Alan Davies’s Rave (Roof, 1994), “Vitals,” where a kind of schematic reduction of about 40 pornographic novels (“Jessica listened Jodie. wJ watched wJ2. Jessica listened Jodie. wJ2 watched wJ breasts. wJ2 touched wJ2 c––t. wJ2 touched wJ c––t” etc.) is accompanied by diagrams of how to make a hotel bed.

And I doubt anybody’s getting particularly tingly over “Split Thighs," either, tho this is excellent verse in Davies’s characteristic disjunctive, musically sensitive mode:
gaff droll surmise hot
matrimony slot toted
mercurial glimmer stuffed
strafe moaned silence
lurid clam amour
stayed remorse
enunciate score triads
splice moray quiver
managed treat stones
slay frugal stand
man again
lanced effort
what life

flange tamed surety
tinted great anglings
glide slurred utter
prick stone word slit
other slowed spices
mute arguable treats
three graded stammer
stepping mowed alp
I like Alan Davies’s poetry very much, have for a long time. And I like most of Rave (that is, I like “Split Thighs” and the final “short story” “Isherwood Novel,” and could live without “Vitals”). It’s a pretty fascinating analysis of the language & phenomenology of sexuality, but it’s not what I call erotica.


E. M. Selinger said...

Glad to see you fighting the good fight here, Mark. I had it out with a friend in graduate school over Leslie Scalapino's "erotic" work, which didn't fit my definition, either.

Ron Silliman links to a fine erotic writer, though: Pam Rosenthal (, who also publishes as Molly Weatherfield. And if you need a steadier dose, there's always the LustBites blog, co-authored by a group of ladies who publish with the British house Black Lace (

Always glad to share my research, bub.

Anonymous said...

"Split Thighs" makes me not tingly, but nostalgic, except for electrifying moments in the beginning of the second verse. This verse begins to elicit tingle, but then falls to a thud of melancholy. Still, I think, "Split Thighs" takes us through an interesting course of emotions. Thank you, E.M. Sellinger, for the additional resources.