Gary Dexter

Surprising literary ventures | 8 October 2005

Surprising literary ventures

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Oriri (1940)

Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes, the birth control campaigner and author of Married Love, was notoriously plain-speaking (‘Never put in your vagina anything that you would not put in your mouth,’ she told the bemused, mainly male readers of The Lancet in 1938). Her sexual frankness was central to her campaigning success — but it had its origins in a notably idealised view of sex as the supreme spiritual experience, imbued with ‘holiness and divine beauty’. Nowhere is this idealism more apparent than in her unsuccessful career as a great poet. Oriri, one of her several volumes of ecstatically undistinguished verse, is a single long poem dealing with the explosive sexual union of a ‘He’ and a ‘She’ who have met in different incarnations over the aeons. The rhymes drop like bricks, the scansion is at times reminiscent of McGonagall, but the sense of erotic energy is overwhelming. Stopes, undoubtedly the ‘She’ of the poem, is a woman exulting in love — and was, incidentally, at the time of its publication, one month short of her 60th birthday.