Dick Davis


Sex Lives of the Poets  (SLOP)

Geoffrey Chaucer
Was accused of rape. What could be coarser?
So that’s how Eng. Lit. began.
And he seemed such a nice old man.

Marlowe liked buggery
And political skullduggery;
When stabbed, he asked, “For which Secret Service
Do I deserve this?”

Did Shakespeare get more joy
From a boy as a girl or a girl as a boy?
Whatever: he liked the nice surprises
Engendered by disguises.

It’s clear that Aphra Benn
Really liked lots of men
Around her and inside her:
Most anyone could get to ride her.

Alexander Pope
Hadn’t a hope
With Lady Mary Wortley Montague:
“When it comes to inches,” she said, “you certainly want a few.”

Swift’s sexual growth, as is well attested,
Was rather arrested;
He licked his lips at secret names,
And potty talk, and baby games.

William Wordsworth was a cad
Who felt great about feeling bad;
Abandoned girls and lovers’ quarrels
Rewrote themselves as lofty morals.

When it comes to Christina Rossetti
And a sex life  . . . well, not to get petty
There wasn’t any, or at least none that was visible.
This clerihew’s sad, not risible.

Philip Larkin simpered and snickered
When he thought of a schoolgirl de-knickered;
What had him really in clover
Was the phrase, “Bend over.”

Sylvia Plath
Was turned on by the wrath
Of Daddy. It was a mistake though to confuse
Daddy with Ted Hughes.


Dick Davis is Professor Emeritus of Persian at Ohio State University, where he was chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from 2002 to 2012. He has written scholarly works on both English and Persian literature, as well as eight volumes of his own poetry. He has been the recipient of numerous academic and literary awards, including both the Ingram Merrill and Heinemann awards for poetry; his publications include volumes of poetry and verse translation chosen as books of the year by The Sunday Times (UK) 1989; The Daily Telegraph (UK) 1989; The Economist (UK) 2002; The Washington Post 2010, and The Times Literary Supplement (UK) 2013. He has published numerous book-length verse translations from medieval Persian, most recently, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has been called, by the Times Literary Supplement, “our finest translator from Persian.”