Erotic Poetry, Love & Passion • Three Books Added

Reviewed and added the following books to Erotic Poetry, Love & Passion • A review of Poets & Anthologies:

  • Erotiku by Lisa Marie Darlington
  • The Poetry of Sex edited by Sophie Hannah
  • The Literary Companion to Sex edited by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

You will find it below and appended to the larger review linked above.

Erotiku: erotic haiku for the sensual soul
by Lisa Marie Darlington

erotikuThis is a book I really looked forward to getting my hands on. Anyone who’s been following my blog knows I love haiku and erotic poetry in general. Erotiku has only been fitfully available at Amazon, mostly OP or of Limited Availability. When I saw it available at list price with a used book dealer, I snagged it.

The cover is great; unfortunately, the poetry not so much. Like so many western authors, Darlington seems to have walked out of the haiku tutorial at ‘three lines‘. The author herself doesn’t go much beyond this description in the book’s brief introduction. She writes:

 

“Haiku is known to follow the metrical 5-7-5 syllable structure, yet I have revised it to take on a more contemporary form. It’s composition does not follow any kind of syllable rule, yet it still holds true to the three line pattern.”

As if that were all that made a haiku (or senryu for that matter). At the close of the introduction she’ll write that “western haiku tries to imitate old Japanese Haiku with little understanding”. The criticism, unfortunately, is applicable to the entirety of her collection.

The book is thick with one haiku per page. You’re essentially buying blank paper. Having said that, Darlington’s presentation isn’t all that different from other haiku collections. She hints at aesthetic reasons for doing so, maybe to savor each poem individually. The problem is that there’s really not that much to savor. The best senryu and haiku are rich with allusion and suggestiveness. They invite the reader to conjure what the poet leaves out. The reward is traditionally a realization of nature’s interconnectedness (haiku) or the humorous foibles of our humanity (senryu). There’s a broad spectrum between these two, but all the best haiku and senryu serve as an imaginative starting point, not end point. And that’s the problem with Darlington’s erotiku. They’re too often an end point.

Kama Sutra Art

Selected positions
Kama sutra art
Of intense connection

A “poem” like this (presented the way she centers them in her book) has nothing whatsoever to do with haiku or senryu. It’s little more than a statement in three lines. There’s nothing remotely erotic other than by association. The reader is likely to respond: Yes, and? This is Darlington at her least successful and unfortunately typifies, to a greater or lesser degree, too many of her haiku (which I think number around two hundred?—I’m guessing since there are no page numbers).

Arched Out in Pleasure

Her slender body
Curved to the couch
Back arched out in pleasure.

This is more typical of Darlington’s erotiku.  They are descriptive prose passages in three lines. The reader will find lots and lots of these. I suppose it’s erotic/pornographic, but that’s as far as it goes—an end point rather than a starting point. There’s no sense of narrative or realization. By way of comparison, a rare (and possibly) erotic haiku by Basho:

to get wet passing by
a man is interesting
bush clover in rain

This was translated by Jane Reichhold who comments: “The euphemism ‘to get wet’ was often used in tanka where the reader could decide how this happened, from rain, dew on flowers, tears, or sexual activity.” And this, in my view, is profoundly more erotic than Darlington’s essentially three line descriptions of pornography. The reader is invited to finish Basho’s haiku. Is it really erotic? If so, what happened? Did they have a quickie? Is she wet because she was turned on or because he fucked her? Is she the bush clover? Is he the rain? Or is it simply a coincidental spring rain the makes her wet as she passes by a man?

Other issues I have with Darlington’s erotiku are her tendency toward “pigeon English”:

Thighs asphyxiating

Thighs asphyxiating
Around neck and shoulders
Squeezing like a heart attack.

Erotic clichés:

Hot Fire

Hot fire
Kindling, the passion
That burns like Hell.

Descriptive redundancy, verbosity and too many adjectives:

Your tongue walks

Your tongue walks
Heavily, up against
The surface of my naked skin.

She doesn’t need up, surface (as this is implied) or naked (also implied). It’s her skin his tongue walks on, after all, not her clothes. (Too great a use of adjectives and overstatement are probably Darlington’s most consistent failings.)  Or consider the following where only needlessly appears twice:

Sexy Thong Panties

She buys sexy thong panties
To only please
Herself only.

And does the reader need to know they’re sexy? It’s overstatement that repeatedly mars Darlington’s poetry.

Also, whether the decision was deliberate or simply not a part of their tradition (or language), Japanese poets never made use of like or as. The idea of the simile was there, but was handled far more subtly and to greater effect. Unfortunately, the simile is all too frequent in Darlington’s poems. [Note to western poets: Haiku aren’t glorified similes. Don’t write simileku]:

His Raising Blade

His raising blade
Cutting through; like shears –
Through her wilted flower.

(There again, through needlessly appears twice.)

A bit like a broken clock though, Darlington gets it right every now and then:

Stirred by Moonlight

Stirred by moonlight
The afterglow of sex
Glistens

This is actually quite good. There’s a play on the notion of afterglow that works nicely with moonlight. If only she had written more like this.

However, in fairness to Darlington and having written all this, I think it’s worth pointing out that the book is a record of her sexual awakening. As she points out in the first sentence of her Forward: “Not to [sic] long ago, I shunned myself from erotic pleasure. ¶ Not only did I find it dirty, filthy, downright skanky and vulgar – but degrading as well… ¶ Then, through my greatest despair, came the union of my lover. He showed me that through lovemaking and experiencing of such erotic explosions, that sex wasn’t something to be ashamed of, yet something to be celebrated and explored.” My heart goes out to her. Anyone brave enough to publish a book like this and to share their erotic life with other readers deserves some praise.

If you’re willing to set aside literary expectations and willing to read the book as a kind of awakening and erotic autobiography (in a series of three line poems) then I highly recommend it.

  • The Book About 8 by 5. Good paper. Readable. No page numbers. No index. Sans serif font.
  • Comparisons This book compares to Seduction in the 1st Degree: A Collection of Erotic Poetry, by Lisa Marie Candield. The poetry may be amateurish in both, but if one’s willing to trade that for exuberance, then both books beautifully compliment each other.
  • You and your Lover Maybe you’ll be inspired?
  • Embarrassment Be prepared to explain yourself if you happen to leave this on the coffee table, but then maybe that’s a good thing.

Sex ♥♥♥♥♥♥
Art N/A
Romance ♥♥
Look & Feel ♥♥♥♥
Poetry ♥♥
Index N/A

The Poetry of Sex
Edited by Sophie Hannah

The Poetry of SexFinally, a title that says it and means it. In case you were wondering, this is indeed a book of poetry about sex. And to keep things short and sweet: I consider this to be one of the best anthologies available. Without hesitation, I rank it among my other favorites: intimate kisses; Passionate Hearts; The Erotic Spirit; The Best American Erotic Poems.

The editor, Sophie Hannah, is delightfully playful in her introduction, fully aware that her selection is weighted toward the actor Daniel Craig (you’ll just have to read it). Compare Hannah’s playfulness to the starched-underwear snootiness of Peter Washington’s Everyman collection: Erotic Poems (if you want to ‘compare and contrast’). Hannah has no problem with the pornography that is, much to the apparent shock of many a literary editor, the defining attribute of sex and erotica.

The book is divided into sections with the headings:

  • ‘So ask the body’
  • ‘Also those desires glowing openly’
  • ‘A night plucked from a hundred and one’
  • ‘All our states united’
  • ‘But your wife said she’
  • ‘What’s in it for me?’
  • ‘Oh right. You people don’t remove that bit’
  • ‘God, to be wanted once more’

Each section has about 19 or 20 poems, and that adds up. Not an inconsiderable collection. The poems range from Catallus, though Shakespeare, and to contemporaries like Hannah herself, Rubbish at Adultery, and Sharon Olds (who, though I don’t much care for her mainstream poetry, easily writes some of the best erotic poetry around). I suppose what differentiates Hannah’s collection from the other anthologies is her sense of humor. Though there’s only so much scope for that preference in pre-20th century poetry, she nevertheless finds some choice nuggets. In her contemporary choices her nose for the humor in erotic literature really shines:

Their Sex Life
A.R. Ammons

One failure on
Top of another

Or this poem by Irving Layton:

Bicycle Pump

The idle gods for laughs gave man his rump;
In sport, so made his kind that when he sighs
In ecstasy between a woman’s thighs
He goes up and down, a bicycle pump;
And his beloved once his seed is sown
Swells like a faulty tube on one side blown.

But I also don’t want to give the impression this anthology is just for laughs. It’s not. The difference is in allowing that sex isn’t always about overheated stares, cataclysmic orgasms or the ecstasy of “spiritual”, quote-unquote, unions. Sometimes sex is just sex—fun, funny, and as dirty as you want it to be. It’s books like this that persuade me that all the best writing of the latter 20th and early 21st century is in erotica. The rest, in my opinion, is largely a morass of mediocrity.

  • The Book About 7 by 5. Good paper. Readable. One poem per page. Nice font. The best of index of any erotic anthology to date: Index of Poets, First Lines and Titles. I mean, to all the others: How hard is that to do?
  • Comparisons This book belongs on your bookshelf alongside intimate kisses; Passionate Hearts; The Erotic Spirit; The Best American Erotic Poems.
  • In Translation One or two from the antiquities.
  • You and your Lover Got a poem you want her to read? All you have to do is remember the poet, the title or the  first line.
  • Embarrassment Only keep this on the coffee around toddlers who can’t read titles.

Sex ♥♥♥♥♥♥
Art N/A
Romance ♥♥
Look & Feel ♥♥♥♥♥♥
Poetry ♥♥
Index

The Literary Companion to Sex
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Literary Companion to SexThis is a book published in 1992 and I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten round to reviewing it until now. It’s easily one of the most comprehensive anthologies of not just poetry but of sex and erotica in literature of any kind. In other words, you’ll find not just passages of poetry but passages from the Bible, Drama, Elizabethan pamphlets, short stories and novels. At 415 pages, there’s a wealth of material grouped, as the introduction puts it, into “five wide periods”:

  • The Ancient World
  • The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
  • The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century
  • The Nineteenth Century
  • The Twentieth Century

Among other luminaries, you will find the earily 20th century’s great egotist, Frank Harris. Going back to the ancient world you will read passages from Aristophanes, Ovid, Terence, and Apuleius. Selections from the Middle Ages include a literary passage from the Chinese author Wang Shih-Chen but are mostly limited to examples from the English. The author, in the forward,  suggests a reason for this. She writes:

“The manual type of book can be seriously boring. Even at fourteen, I can remember all those ‘yonis’ and ‘lingams’ of The Kama Sutra turning me off, not on, as I perused it under my desk during scripture lessons. It was hard for me to find a likeable passage in either that or The Perfumed Garden. ¶ In the end I decided that my criteria for choosing would be these: realism, humour, or the unusual—preferably all three. It was important to find realistic writing, simply because there’s so little of it.”

Fair enough. I’m inclined to agree with her, though one might fairly ask if her selections don’t reflect her own cultural biases. I’m not asserting they do, but the question arises. Are readers in India turned on, rather than off, by yonis and lingams? — or do they also prefer cunts and cocks in their literature?

Some other observations she makes are, I think, worth mentioning.

On the ancient world:

“The writers of the ancient world, in the main, proved to be the most open and unashamed about sex, although a slightly prurient, shocked tone crept into their news reportage (the sensationalist historians, Suetonius and Procopius). But are journalists of today any different?”

On the Middle Ages:

“The Middle Ages and the Rennaisance, although bawdy, were overshadowed by religion and doom. Conversely, their religious writing often had sexual overtones. The fate in hell of the aduleress in Gesta Romanorum provides a memorably kinky image of tortured womankind that must have provided good masturbation material for pious monks everywhere.”

On the 17th century:

“By the time we reach the seventeenth century, dildoes, and jokes about them, are big news, as are venereal diseases. The Restoration and the eighteenth century provide a period of frankness similar to that of the ancient world. It’s probably the easiest period in which to find good sex writing.”

On the 19th century:

“I knew from the start that the nineteenth century would give me the biggest problems. Apart from some good French literature and Byron, what was I to include? Literature became schizophrenic during Victoria’s reign. Sex didn’t happen in official literature, but it happened nonstop – to an unrealistic extent – in The Pearl and other underground writing. Kinkiness was in. ¶ Apart from mainstream writing and underground pornography, there’s a third tradition in the nineteenth century — one that’s often ignored. Isolated individuals had begun to collect folklore. Writing for ‘the learned reder’, these writers could be a little franker than those who wrote for the mass market, like Dickens. And mercifully, their style is usually of  far higher quality than that of the average nineteenth-century pornographer. These folk tales hark back to older traditions, keeping alive the bawdy spirit of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”

On the 20th century:

“By the twentieth century we are into mixed territory. I sensed curious affinities across the eras — Apollinaire’s erotic novel with Rochester’s Sodom; one of e.e. cummings’s poems with an anonymous seventeenth-century one; Eskimo Nell and Procopius’s Empress Theodora — another fucker of cosmic proportions. There is also, alas, a great deal of bad writing. Authors frequently make great claims for their own honesty, only to get bogged down in prurience and their own embarrassment. I avoided all passages that talked about waves beating on shores. (That sort of writing’s only permissible if the couple are doing it on a beach.) Still, on the plus side, there is a tremendous range of ideas and experience in the writing of the twentieth  century — everything from bestiality to vibrators.”

And that ought to give you a flavor for the kind of erotic writing Pitt-Kethley has anthologized. If you’re looking for a collection offering literature besides poetry, you can’t do better than this (as far as I know). Consider this the best anthology of erotic literature currently available.

 

  • The Book About 8 by 5. Acid paper. Will yellow over time. Readable. Nice font. An index of authors only.
  • Comparisons For the erotic connoisseur, this book belongs on your bookshelf alongside the poetry of sex, intimate kisses; Passionate Hearts; The Erotic Spirit; The Best American Erotic Poems.
  • In Translation Mainly antiquities, Chinese and some French.
  • You and your Lover Not the kind of tome to snuggle between yourself and your lover, but if you’re wondering whether your great (to the tenth power) grandparents liked it the way like you like it, this is the book.
  • Embarrassment A high brow addition to your accidentally discovered coffee table collection. Your guests may want to borrow it. Your only embarrassment will be in having to ask for its return — please?

Sex ♥♥♥♥♥♥
Art N/A
Romance ♥♥
Look & Feel ♥♥♥♥♥
Poetry ♥♥
Index

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Erotic Poetry, Love & Passion • A review of Poets & Anthologies

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The Art of Erotic Poetry

I love erotic and love poetry and have several collections; some are good, some are not.

This is a big post, overdue, and the books are given in no particular order (I made a pile on the floor).

I thought readers might enjoy a post giving an overview of what’s available—something which I’ve already done for Erotic Haiku. First, the question: What makes a good erotic poem? Here’s what I wrote in my opening to paragraph to Erotic Haiku:

Just as the haiku is the art of indirection, so too erotica. Whereas the explicit is an imaginative endpoint, the best haiku are a suggestive starting point for the imagination.  Suggestiveness is all – allusion, inference, and association.  And when haiku fail because they were made too explicit, eroticism fails for the same reason: eroticism becomes pornographic.

To me, the best erotic poetry is an imaginative starting point, not an endpoint. The best erotic poems are like the best metaphors; which is to say, to paraphrase the great poet EA Robinson, erotic poetry “tells the more the more it is not told”. When poems become too explicit, they lose something.

Note: I’ve included the books in the post Erotic Haiku in this post for the sake of completeness, but not a detailed review. You can find that at the original post. I’ve also reviewed three more collections of Erotic Haiku and have added them to the present post.

  • Favorite Anthologies: I’ve been asked what I consider to be the best among these anthologies. I strongly recommend the following five:
  • intimate kisses
  • Passionate Hearts
  • The Erotic Spirit
  • The Best American Erotic Poems
  • The Poetry of Sex
  • The Literary  Companion to Sex
  • Erotic Haiku edited by Hiroaki Sato

After each review I’ve added a rating – 1 to 6 ‘s, 6 being the best.

Sex ~ Sex
Art ~ Illustrations and Artwork
Romance ~ Passion & Love Poetry
Look & Feel ~ Typography, Layout, Readability
Poetry ~ Its Quality
Index ~ Content, First Line, Title, Author

  • Note: If you are a poet or publisher who would like me to add your erotic book of poetry to this list (as some publishers have requested), please send a review copy. I’m too poor to buy. Seriously (having spent it all on erotic poetry). I’ll update this post with your book the day I receive it. If you think a book should be on this list, and isn’t, let me know. If you disagree with anything I’ve written, comment. More books will be added over time and I’ll notify those who follow the blog that I’ve done so with a post.

Enjoy!

Continue reading

Erotic Haiku

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coquette: Sensual haiku
Jeffrey Winke

My writing of Haiku has fallen off of late.

But I want to get back to writing more. And to get myself warmed up, I’m reviewing three splendid collections.

Eroticism and haiku are a perfect fit. Just as the haiku is the art of indirection, so too erotica. Whereas the explicit is an imaginative endpoint, the best haiku are a suggestive starting point for the imagination.  Suggestiveness is all – allusion, inference, and association.  And when haiku fail because they were made too explicit, eroticism fails for the same reason: eroticism becomes pornographic.

her seven button
blouse…
three undone

❧ Jeffrey Winke

What does the reader imagine? Does he or she imagine that the poet is unbuttoning his lover’s blouse?

Or maybe he sits at a café and can’t help notice a woman’s blouse – three of her buttons, not just unbuttoned, but undone. Where has she been, with whom, and doing what? – he might ask himself. Winke’s haiku invites the imagination, suggests the erotic.

Winke’s slim book, like his haiku, bespeaks care and experience. The backmatter informs us that he co-edited the first small press North American Haiku anthology, the Third Coast Haiku Anthology. He’s also published a separate book of haiku called What’s Not There: Selected Haiku of Jeffrey Winke (I picked up the last used copy at Amazon). If you can’t find his book, visit Byte Studios – the presentation of his haiku, some of which are from coquette, are pretty cool and you can also contact Winke directly.

Don’t buy coquette expecting hours of reading. There are two to three haiku per page but each haiku, if you give it a little time, can suggest a world of eroticism. Just read one and savor it. As to the pages themselves, the layout is spare but thoughtful.

The shadowy images that accompany the haiku quietly comment but remain as subtly suggestive as the poems themselves. All in all, this little collection is caviar for the general. Buy it if you like haiku. Buy it if you like eroticism. But don’t if you are looking for something more explicit.

Venus in view
Brynne McAdoo

Venus in View was not what I was expecting, but I like it and I’m glad I picked up.

Rather than a collection of erotic haiku, you will find six haibun. One of Japan’s greatest works of literature is a haibun – Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to the North. In a nutshell, haibun is the genre in which prose passages combine with haiku. Basho’s Journey to the North is a narrative account of his journey through northern Japan, interspersed with haiku, and Brynne McAdoo’s haibun are short erotic narratives interspersed with erotic haiku – Electric Fence, Breastless, Anosmia Affair, Haiku Rendezvous, Halloween Haibun, Nor’easter Coming.

Brynne MacAdoo, by the way, is the author’s pseudonym. She lives two lives, the author tells us. “By day she is a high school teacher, and in her shadow life, she writes erotic haiku under this pseudonym.” How did she think up the name? Brynne means “strong woman” while the “surname is borrowed from her grandmother, a renegade 1935 beauty queen.

McAdoo’s haibun are, by turns, humorous, wistful, salacious and thoughtful. Eroticism isn’t the goal, but the backdrop against which her small stories and poems appear.   The protagonist in each  narrative is a woman, and the men in each story frequently leave something to be desired – women who choose to read McAdoo’s book can expect to have their been there, done that moments, recognizing some of the men who have passed through the lives – or maybe even stayed too long.

personal ad date:
my purse ready with condom
and mace

But what might have been altogether too one-sided in the hands of a lesser poet, is made gracious by the poet’s own self-deprecating sense of humor. If her feet are stepped on, it’s because she picked the wrong dancer. Indeed, some of the haiku are really more senryu-like, a form as old as the haiku but which revels in human foible and are often humorous (if darkly in the hands of their original Japanese masters).

Compare Jeffrey Winke’s haiku, the blouse with it’s three undone buttons, to Brynne McAdoo’s wry riposte:

first & last date –
back from the ladies room
my blouse buttoned higher

If you’re collector, like me, this little book is worthy. Add it to your collection of erotic poetry. If you’re a woman in need of commiseration, look no further.

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen him. I even moved, not leaving a forwarding number.

you don’t know
where I live but still
i leave the porch light on

Our phone conversation is short, nothing much exchanged except when and where we will meet, a secret spot: a cheesy cabin restaurant with an artificial fireplace. It is another place neither of us has been to and will never go again. I make sure I wear a black, fringed sweater he’s never seen, a new shade of lipstick, Scarlet O’Hara Red.”

Erotic Haiku
Compiled and Edited with Translations into Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

Sato’s book, rather than being by a single author, is a collection of erotic haiku. Some of the names, like Charles Trumbull & Lee Gurga, will be recognizable  to followers of American haiku. The haiku, being by a variety of authors, also vary in tone. Some are more suggestive than the others and some are explicitly unembarrassed, though Sato has been careful to choose haiku that nevertheless uphold the form’s suggestiveness.

The book is also filled with line-drawn illustrations of the most simplistic sort –  deliberately amateurish. I love them. They compliment the haiku without turning them into Haiga – which would detract from the creators’ original intent – haiku that speak for themselves. Some of the drawings are out and out explicit and on a different blog I might be tempted to reproduce one or two. As it is, the image at right will give you their flavor.

old lovers
only her left nipple
becomes erect
—        Lee Gurga

Sato, a resident of New York, translator and essayist, writes for the Japan Times and was president of the Haiku Society of America from 1979 to 1981. In the backmatter of the book, he discusses the Senryu-like qualities of erotic haiku.

What? Erotic haiku? You mean erotic senryu, no? Haiku sing of seasonal transitions, senryu of human foibles, such as erotic stirrings, don’t they? ¶ Yes, that is the usual distinction made. But when you think of the history of Japanese verse — the tanka splitting into the upper and lower hemistiches, thereby creating the renga, which, in turn, spawned the hokku, then the haiku—you realize that there was difficulty from the outset in making a distinction between haiku and senryu by subject matter. “Love,” an important subject in tanka, was not only inherited by renga, but renga masters such as Minamoto no Sozei (died 1455) and Nishiyama Soin (1605-1682) have left “Love Hyakuin,” in which each of the one-hundred units dealt with “love.”

Then, after reminding readers that eroticism can find historical precedent in classical Japanese literature, he makes the curious argument that English haiku, unlike Japanese haiku, is free (read: has no rules). He writes: “So, to define haiku in English, you must say ‘it is that which the person who wrote it calls haiku.’ No, I’m not joking.” Sato may insist that he’s not joking but, fortunately for the rest of us (and according to those who were involved in the project), he seems to have had a very clear grip on what constituted haiku when collecting them for his anthology. Even if he’s not joking, I don’t take him seriously.

In his choices, he did a gorgeous job.

mouth  open skyward
on her tongue raindrops
of my love
—             Jukka Saario

Of the three books, this book will be the most difficult to find. It appears to be out of print and Amazon’s resellers are trying to retire on its resale value. Be patient. If you wait long enough, as I did, a reasonably priced copy may show up. Wait, buy it, and you won’t regret it. My own feeling is that the book is a gem of poetic eroticism, the best collection of erotica haiku available, but I don’t recommend paying more than $30 dollars for it unless you’re the type who just has to have it for your erotic collection. Wait, and you won’t feel as though you’ve paid too much for too little. (The book was originally priced at $9.95.)

spring equinox
with the lilacs she comes out
as bisexual

❧ Brynne McAdoo

Erotic Haiku & Senryu Online

There are also bloggers and online poets who are trying their hand at erotic haiku and senryu. The sites, obviously, aren’t for the under aged or the prudish. For the rest, you may enjoy what you find.

Remittance Girl, among the most talented of erotic writers on the Internet, has tried her hand at haiku.

Haiku: Sleeping in the Shadow

The Erotic Writer is a relatively new blog.

Senryū: Edge of the World, Metamorph, Vignettes

Cernuus is also a relatively new blog whose Senryu you might enjoy:

Senryu

And here are some erotic haiku by Steve Mount

Erotic Haiku by Steve Mount

And here is a collection of erotic haiku at AHAPoetry.

Erotic Haiku

Lastly, you can find my own erotic haiku at right: Categories/Haiku/Erotic.

Enjoy. And if you can recommend other sites or books please do so. I and other readers will thank you.