11 Poets Who Wrote Dirty Verse

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Think poets are just stodgy writers who sit at their desks penning boring poems? Think again. Here are eleven poets who sometimes showed their bawdier sides.

1. T.S. Eliot

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Eliot had a reputation for being a stodgy poet, but he’s one of the most well-known Modernists and responsible for some of the most widely read poems in the English language (The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock being two of his most famous, along with the ending of The Hollow Men, which was influenced by Dante and his Divine Comedy). But in his early years he wrote a series of scatological limericks including the racist caricature of a well-endowed ruler named “King Bolo.” One of the stanzas reads:

King Bolo’s Royal Body Guard
Were called ‘The Jersey Lilies’—
A bold and bestial set of blacks
Undaunted by syphilis.
They wore the national uniform
Of a garland of verbenas
And a pair of big black hairy balls
And a big black hairy penis.

Another example of Eliot’s latent dirty verse is in his poem The Triumph of Bullsh*t. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the poem, which was not published during Eliot’s lifetime, as the first use of the word “bullsh*t.” It ends with the following stanza:

And when thyself with silver foot shalt pass
Among the Theories scattered on the grass
Take up my good intentions with the rest
And then for Christ’s sake stick them up your ass.

2. John Donne

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Donne is considered to be the most prominent member of the Metaphysical poets, a group of seventeenth century British lyricists who used complex metaphors called “conceits” in sonnets and poems about topics like love or religion. Though he became an Anglican priest in 1615 and was later appointed Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, he spent much of his early years as an educated womanizer. Maybe his early experiences helped him when writing these eloquently cheeky lines from To His Mistress Going to Bed:

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though they never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s come glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that ‘spangled’ breastplate which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.

And later:

By this these angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.

3. Robert Burns

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This trailblazer of the Romantic Movement is also the national poet of Scotland, and is even known as “The Bard” in his native land (take that Shakespeare!). But Burns is probably best known by students as that poet who wrote in that weird Scots dialect you can’t really understand.

You may know that we sing the lyrics to his poem Auld Lang Syne every New Year’s Eve, and that his poem, Comin’ Thro’ the Rye, is the children’s song misinterpreted by Holden Caulfield in JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye—but you probably didn’t know it has a more explicit version.

The traditional verse of one of the stanzas is like this:

  Gin a body meet a body
    Comin thro' the grain,
Gin a body kiss a body,
   The thing's a body's ain.
Comin’ thro’ the rye, etc.

While the dirty version of the same stanza reads like this:

Gin a body meet a body
   Comin’ thro’ the grain,
Gin a body f**k a body,
   C**t’s a body’s ain.
Comin’ thro’ the rye, etc.

In the dialect Burns uses, “gin” means “if” and “ain” means “own,” but those other words, well, they’ll just have to speak for themselves.

4. Ovid

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Known for his long narrative poem the Metamorphoses, Ovid is one of the best writers in all of Latin literature. His mastery of the elegiac couplet is unparalleled, and his writing greatly influenced everyone from J.M.W. Turner to Miguel de Cervantes. But who knew he was kind of a perv? Ovid's first completed book of poetry, Amores, is a poetic account of a love affair with a high-class lady named Corinna. Here is a selection from that book's In Summer’s Heat:

Then came Corinna in a long, loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down,
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed,
Or Lais of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown, being thin the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered therwithal,
And, striving thus as one that would be chaste,
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last.
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye,
Not one wen in her body could I spy.
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see?
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me?
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I?
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh?
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well;
I clinged her naked body, down she fell.
Judge you the rest. Being tired, she bade me kiss.
Jove send me more such afternoons as this.

5. John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

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Despite being a courtier of King Charles II in the 17th century, John Wilmot was one of the most notorious rakes in British history. He spent some time in the Tower of London for plotting to kidnap a young countess who refused his hand in marriage, impersonated a gynecologist in order to examine young women without provoking their husbands’ suspicions, and produced poetic works of such depravity that they were all virtually banned during the Victorian era. Here are a couple of selections from his poem about a lovely little walk in the park called A Ramble in St. James’ Park:

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who f**ks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Went out into St. James’ Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.

But though St. James has th’honour on ‘t,
‘Tis consecrate to pr**k and c**t.
There, by most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth.

And:

And nightly now beneath their shade
Are buggeries, rapes, and incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering grove
Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops, do here arrive,
And here promiscuously swive.

6. Jonathan Swift

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The Irish writer of Gulliver’s Travels is perhaps the greatest satirist ever. He is, after all, the man who mockingly suggested that the poor Irish population might ease their troubles by selling their children as food for upper class English ladies and gentlemen in A Modest Proposal. His poem The Lady’s Dressing-Room is also ingeniously hyperbolic, and tells of a man named Strephon who sneaks into his mistress Celia’s empty dressing room to fawn over his ideal image of her only to find himself repulsed by what he finds. Here are a couple of stanzas:

To stinking smoke it turns the flame,
Poisoning the flesh from whence it came,
And up exhales a greasy stench
For which you cursed careless wench:
So, things which must not be expressed
When plumped into the reeking chest
Send up an excremental smell
To taint the parts from whence they fell:
The petticoats and gown perfume
And waft a stink around every room.
 
Thus, finishing his grand survey,
The swain, disgusted, slunk away,
Repeating, in his amorous fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia sh*ts.

7.  W.H. Auden

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The Funeral Blues writer’s influence was debated throughout his life among early twentieth century literary types in his native England, especially in the shadow of other poetic giants like T.S. Eliot. But the New York School of poets, including John Ashbery, later embraced him. In this section from his poem Babies in Their Mothers’ Arms, he writes about, ahem, "self-love":

With the Duchy of his mind:
All his lifetime he will find
Swollen knee or aching tooth
Hostile to his quest for truth;
Never will his pr**k belong
To his world of right and wrong,
Nor its values comprehend
Who is foe and who is friend.

8. ee cummings

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Cummings embraced various avant garde styles in his poetry, and would let Dada and surrealism influence his writing after he visited Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. Like many of his poems, she being Brand foregoes many rules of English syntax, but its explicit car metaphors don’t leave much to the imagination. Here's a section:

(having
thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch (and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell) next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning) just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good

9.  Seamus Heaney

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Ask any literary type who the best living poet is, and Heaney’s name will inevitably be in the mix. The winner of countless literary awards, including the 1995 Nobel Prize, he was called “the most important Irish poet since Yeats” by former Poet Laureate Robert Lowell. But Heaney is also known to sometimes write suggestively cheeky poetry as well. His poem Victorian Guitar includes the epigraph “Inscribed ‘Belonged to Louisa Catherine Coe before her marriage to John Charles Smith, March 1852’,” and features the following stanzas: 

Louisa Catherine Smith could not be light.
Far more than a maiden name
Was cancelled by him on the first night.
 
I believe he cannot have known your touch
Like this instrument – for clearly
John Charles did not hold with fingering—
 
Which is obviously a lady’s:
The sound-box trim as a girl in stays,
The neck right for the smallest span.
 
Did you even keep track of it as a wife?
Do you know the man who has it now
Is giving it the time of its life?

10. John Berryman

The Poetry Foundation

Berryman won the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his nebulous, semi-autobiographical collection of poems, 77 Dream Songs, which follows an unfortunate series of events in the life of a main character, who bears a resemblance to Berryman, named Henry. The ever-evolving poems are known for their unusual phrases and changes in perspective. Also, they’re sometimes dirty in an abstract way. Take, for example, Dream Song 4:

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
twice.

Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her
 
or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.--Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.
 
-Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against
Henry.
-Mr. Bones: there is.

11. Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine

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The absinthe-tinged love affair between Rimbaud and Verlaine is the stuff of literary legend. The 17-year-old Rimbaud wrote to the 27-year-old Verlaine—whose wife was pregnant at the time—and soon moved into their home in Paris in 1871. Shortly after, the two lovers fled to London and lived in relative squalor, spending days on end at the Reading Room in the British Museum because the pens and ink were free. Their relationship grew extremely bitter, and eventually came to an end after Verlaine was sentenced to prison for shooting Rimbaud and wounding him in the left wrist. Rimbaud would end up writing influential classics such as A Season in Hell before abandoning poetry altogether at 20. During their travels in London, the two collaborated on a sonnet called Lines on the Arsehole, a ribald tribute to, um, the anus. Verlaine contributed an octet and Rimbaud contributed a sestet. Here are some salacious sections from both poets.

Verlaine:

Crumpled like a carnation, mauve and dim
It breathes, cowering humbly in the moss
Still wet with love which trickles down across
The soft slope of white buttocks to its rim.

Rimbaud:

My mouth mates often with this breathing-hole.
While matter goes and comes, my jealous soul
Makes tawny tears there in its next of sighs

Sources:  The Faber Book of Blue Verse, edited by John Whitworth; Inventions of the March Hare - Poems 1909-1917 by TS Eliot and edited by Christopher Ricks; Poets.org.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.