John Updike’s poems are written in a very peculiar style. Unlike most poets, Updike’s poems seem to tell a story, rather than depict a singular emotion. This is due to the fact that many of Updike’s poems deal with simple, yet focused topics. Updike masters the use of vivid language to produce powerful images in the minds of his readers. The use of such strong language in his poems allow his readers to see and experience the messages which he is portraying. Although the topics of Updike’s poems vary immensely, the same detailed conceptions are evoked from every poem.
One poem that stands out, among his sexual pieces, is Fellatio. Unlike intercourse, fellatio has been depicted throughout history as an unclean and unacceptable practice. In Updike’s poem, Fellatio, he initially gives this sexual act a completely different characterization. Updike writes, “How beautiful to think / that each of these clean secretaries / at night, to please her lover, takes / a fountain into her mouth...” (p. 49). Although the act of oral sex is widely practiced today, I have never heard it depicted as a beautiful act. The sense of beauty comes from the idea that the woman and her lover share a bond so deep that she is willing to do anything to please him. Updike later portrays this act as very natural, because he goes on to compare the culmination of oral sex to nature in the end of this poem. The act is compared to the planting of flowers in a field, or the beautiful, clean, innocent clouds in the sky. This poem was very shocking to me, because it gave this act such innocent, natural connotations, when you first read it. Updike, however, has added a subtle element of humor to this poem. This element of humor depicts the speaker’s true feelings about this act. The line in which the speaker says “How beautiful,” is clearly sarcastic. It also seem to imply that there is comedic value to the idea that these women, who appear so clean cut and proper in the work place, can return home to their lovers and be completely different.
In another of Updike’s sexual poems, sex is represented in an extremely different manner. In Updike’s poem, Cunts, a very contradictory image of sexuality is given. Updike uses the word cunt in this poem consistently. This word is a very degrading word for the vagina, but he characterizes the female genitalia in a very positive fashion. Updike characterizes this portion of the human anatomy as a beautiful thing, especially when he refers to it as the, “...Glad tunnel of life...” (p. 118). The process of giving birth is probably the most beautiful and rewarding experience that a woman can endure. Due to this characterization, the reader is filled with a respect for the woman’s body, because of the miracles that it can perform. Updike inserts the word cunt into the middle of thoughts, to enhance his point. Updike writes, “...there is almost / cunt too much of a CUNT good thing CUNT...” (p.119). ...