Resources on poetry by the poets themselves


A woman remembers a night of lovemaking with her girlfriend.

This sonnet is a love poem, a subject that is traditional in this form. It concentrates on the passion of a 'hot September night' and presents images of sultry heat and sexual abandon. The frisson of anticipation and mutual discovery is deftly drawn in lines 3-4: 'I reached out my arms / and you, hands on my breasts, kissed me.' The 'Evening of amber' that follows suggests the colour of skin, sunlight and exoticism. The initial contact described in the first quatrain is developed in the second as discarded clothes allow the lovers to explore each other's naked bodies. The feverish activity that follows is quite directly described as one lover  'became ferocious' and orally explored the other's most intimate parts as suggested by 'red gold' and pink shadows'. The octave is a more clearly detailed memory of someone remembering the event that was more impressionistic at the time. This is suggested by the line: 'I did not see it like this at the time, but arched / my back and squeezed water from the sultry air / with my fists. This suggests the tension that builds up for the release of orgasm, which is characterised by inarticulate cries, paralleled by the noise of the siren. The almost self-conscious sense that this experience had poetic potential is suggested by the 'fingers counting themselves, dancing.' This could, of course, simply be relaying self-awareness. It is clear, though, that this poem is celebrating physical passion and the heights that are possible to reach. There is a curious sense of the voice in the poem being simultaneously involved and detached. This results from the distance in time between the event and its recollection in the form of a poem. If we follow Wordsworth's statements concerning what poetry is we might reasonably say that 'Girlfriends' deals with 'emotion recollected in tranquillity.'