The High Art Of Vulgarity

The High Art Of Vulgarity

One definition of vulgarity is “making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions”. So it is well suited to poetry, because a lot of good literature is based on what could be called ‘shock value’. It stops us in our reading tracks and makes us pay attention.

 “Explicit reference to sex or bodily functions” is important, because these “functions” are important. However, it usually only occurs in humour and the arts. And I can see where it might be consider inappropriate to start a casual conversation with a new acquaintance about your unusual sexual preferences or to get up from Christmas dinner and announce that you have to take a shit. But dirty jokes and erotic passages in literature are widely appreciated. (If they offend some folks, that’s their problem—and should be treated.)

An English verse form I find particularly interesting is the limerick, because its metrical structure seems to inherently suggest humour, just as iambic pentameter inherently seems serious. (Technical note: this seems to be related to the ratio of accented to unaccented syllables.)  And there is no doubt that the best, cleverest limericks could be labeled ‘vulgar’.

Here is one that says something about people’s ambivalence (or hypocrisy?) about ‘vulgarity’ and sex.

There was a young girl named Sapphire,

who succumbed to her lover’s desire,

she said “It’s a sin,

but now that it’s in,

could you just shove it a few inches higher?” © Ken Stange 2012-2015