Reviewed and added the following book to Erotic Poetry, Love & Passion • A review of Poets & Anthologies:
- Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems by Salil Jha
You will find it below and appended to the larger review linked above.
Naked Soul: The Erotic Love Poems by Salil Jha
Naked Soul is a requested review, and the book was sent to me by the publisher. As soon as I started reading I flipped to the author’s bio wondering if this was a late 19th century Indian author, or perhaps early 20th century. We enter a world of huts and a public bath with nary a smartphone or Tesla, though every now and then something of the 21rst (or 20th) century sneaks in. The poem Seduction begins “Do you want to share my ice cream?”, then moves on to stallion.
Beyond that, the world these poems inhabit is so nondescript as to be non-existent. Much of the verse could have been written in the 10th Century BC, and one could easily sneak some of them into the book Persian Love Poetry (see above). The upside, I suppose, is that this gives them a feeling of universality. The downside is that writing like this risks being bland and generic. But for being explicit in a way that a 10th century poet wouldn’t dare, it doesn’t really add anything to what was already written a thousand years ago, :
Tonight I Want:
“…She has been worhsiped
·····turning your ripe pussy
into the temple of
sweet sensual fragrance
topped with cream.”
And that’s about as explicit as Jha gets. The book’s brief biography has this to say about Jha:
Salid Jha, born in India, is a contemporary poet and transpersonal coach with a unique style of writing. His poems explore themes of passionate love, universal truths, and human beings’ inner longing. [Jha’s poetry is] known for its visual narrative of the sensual and mystical experiences of love.
What this translates into: He keeps the explicit at a spiritual arm’s-length, (hence the title: Naked Soul). And the subtitle: They’re not love poems. They’re not erotic poems. They’re erotic love poems. Like the book’s illustrations, a cock or pussy make only a fleeting appearance. Jha prefers centuries old euphemisms for these rather essential tools of the trade:
“Take your fruit out
I will eat it
While resting on my four limbs [Devour Me p. 43]
And that, perhaps, is my most pointed criticism. Jha’s euphemisms, metaphors and sentiments constitute one generic, hallmark-card cliché after another. The very first poem is called “A Garden of Love”. Lovers look “deep into” each others eyes (and kisses are “deep” too). He is ‘mezmerized’. The stars, the moon and sun make repeated appearances — all on cue. There is stardust and a rainbow. Hearts are in love. Shadows dance. Love has no ending. Tears are boundless. Kisses are long. Love is “deepest” love. Passions “scream”. The night is long but hours are short. The sky is eternal. Fire is burning. Water is quenching. Bodies “unite”. Lovers have fruits and lovemaking is the ‘fruit of the night’. Lust is burning. Love communes “deeper” (Jha’s goto descriptor). Lips are wet, moist and red. He and his lover will “make things steamy”. His lover is a treasure, a mystery, a “land to be explored”. Moments are breathtaking and indefinable. Tongues are “honey-soaked”. Neighbors are wakened to the “song” of “two love-birds” (on page 136 of the Joy of Sex, the later revision, you’ll find the entry called ‘Birdsong at Morning’). When he orgasms, he “explodes in ecstasy” (never heard that before). ‘Inner fires’ are for “unleashing” and passions ‘burn’. (There’s lots and lots of “burning”. Hearts break. Eyes are “endless pools”. His lover is a “home and refuge”. The sea is “clear blue”, like the ‘depth of his love’. His heart “longs”. On and on he goes. The book could almost be subtitled: A dictionary of erotic clichés — with index.
The next is the “deep-thoughts” sententiousness (guru-speak) that can mar the verse :
- “You bring love with love/You make love with love” p. 9
- “Let go of the self /and you’ll meet/a madman/ coming out of you.” p. 16
- “Love communes direct and deeper” p.48
- “Having trust/in intimacy/is tremendously/romantic” p. 55
- “He who believes in love/is never aloof/never detached.” p.56
- “But no two mornings and evenings are the same…” p. 116
And the time for such lines as “O where such beauty, lo, where such fate” (p. 107) is long since past. Such high-flown rhetorical pretentiousness robs his verse of personality and immediacy. However, there are glimpses of the kind of erotic poet Jha could be if he stopped trying to be the Rumi/Kahlil Gibran of erotic poets.
“At first glance,
It won’t slide.
sound of wetness
proves me wrong.” [p. 104]
That’s promising erotic verse. He doesn’t need the line “proves me wrong“. This is implied and redundant; but this is the right direction — concrete and visceral. One of his better poems,
such a delight
Lady of my dreams
All naked but
Her flesh giving away
the aroma of
….freshly cooked food.
I hug her from behind
….Her tits pointed
I gently whisper into her ear
….“I love you”
……..As I take off
is only marred only by his assertion of love (and the word gently, which appears so often his poetry begins to read like an instruction manual). It probably seems odd to complain (in a collection of erotic poems no less) that the word “love” appears in the majority of them, but after a while it gets cloying. Does the reader really need to be reminded that he loves her or that this is really all about love? Isn’t that implied? Is he embarrassed to simply “lust”? It would have been better, I think, to simply write:
I gently whisper in her ear
······As I take off
This would have left something to the reader’s imagination. What did he say? I love you? I ‘m going to fuck you? The art of the erotic is as much in what’s told as what’s left out. Jha seems unable to resist spelling it all out (which is probably what a “transpersonal coach” does) but it doesn’t make for the best poetry:
It feels magical; it feels mystical;
all of it,
all of us,
····under the love rug,
Fiery creatures in the dark. [Fiery Creatures p. 94]
There’s nothing tactile, sensual or evocative in these lines. It’s just Jha gushing. Is he going to Disney World next?
Most of the poems are written from his (the male’s) point of view. A few are written from the woman’s (his lover presumably?), and these come without warning. Suddenly his lover holds his “pear-shaped bum” from behind and squeezes his breasts. ‘Bum’? The proverbial needle scrapes the record. It’s okay, but you may find yourself going back to start again. And when the next poem comes along, experience the utter free-fall of not knowing the gender of the narrator (which may or may not be established). Does he switch-hit every now and then? (The illustrations are strictly heterosexual.)
All in all, it sounds like I’m not going to recommend this collection, but I think there’s a readership for it. I can’t recommend the book if you’re looking for well-written poetry that’s explicitly erotic. That’s not what Jha is about, but I’ll bet there is an audience — those readers who complain of a lack of spirituality in their erotic literature. Jha offers this in spades. I happen to think it’s more than a little pretentious, but if you’re idea of eroticism is the Kuma Sutra with sitar and string orchestra, the restraint of Bollywood, a piercing gaze that is pure heat (and yet gently spiritual), clothes that are loose and enlightened (like his verse), and sweeping utterances of unending love under a humid sunset on the river Ganges, then this book for you.
····of your face, darling
is more luminous
····than ten thousands suns
Your one smile
········the whole world
I’m okay with that. This book, in fact, isn’t a such a bad effort. Collections of erotic verse by single authors are still new to world. (I prefer E.E. Cummings, but Cummings didn’t set out to write a unified collection of verse.) The book to which Jha’s can be directly compared is Seduction in the 1st Degree: A Collection of Erotic Poetry, by Lisa Marie Candield. In fact, Jha’s book is a perfect male counterpart to Canfield’s. They both ‘burn’. There’s ‘magic’ in both collections. There’s juiciness and fruit in both. And they both revel in unquenchable hyperbole:
Make love to me like you have with no other woman.
Let me be your one and only love.
Ravish me with the sexuality of a thousand lovers,
Give me what a man hungers, of. [Canfield p. 96]
While Canfield’s poetry seems to arise, enthralled and wide-eyed from the earth, desiring to be consumed, Jha’s poetry descends loftily and all-encompassing from the heavens, desiring to consume his lover. If possible, read the two books together for an experience in Yin and Yang. They’re like two halves of the same fig.
- The Book About 7 by 5. A number of black and white illustrations that are actually quite good and erotic. 153 pages altogether. Excellent paper. Readable. Nicely presented. No Index. Short bio.
- Comparisons This book compares to Seduction in the 1st Degree: A Collection of Erotic Poetry, by Lisa Marie Candield. The poetry is often amateurish and clichéd in both, but if one’s willing to trade that for sheer exuberance, then both books beautifully compliment each other.
- You and your Lover Bring your Yoga mats.
- Embarrassment Only if its mistakenly included in your 50 Shades of Grey BDSM collection.
Look & Feel ♥♥♥♥♥