For a man who was so consummate and brilliant a prose stylist, with such an eye for detail and such a facility with arresting and Keatsian description, I’m kind of relieved that his poetry sucks as much as it does. I’m relieved because whilst I can do prose I can’t seem to write good poetry either, and it’s heartening to think I’m not alone.
Golden photon white on granulated red
wall-broad in this instance,
splendiferous surface. 
Why marry ogre
Just to get hubby?
Has he a brogue, or
Are his legs stubby?
Smokes he a stogie?
Is he not sober?
Is he too logy
And dull as a crowbar?
I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise.
Hoping to fashion a mirror, the lover
doth polish the face of his beloved
until he produces a skull.
Pretentious, that. Some of the poems are not bad, although I appreciate I’m giving a rather other impression with this sample. But I want to deal with one complete poem that rather stands out—not because it is bad poetry, because actually it’s not; but because there’s an ick-factor, a ‘he-didn’t-just-say-what-I-think-he-did,-did-he?’ quality, that is also of course very recognisable from Updike's prose.
It is beautiful to think
that each of these clean secretaries
at night, to please her lover, takes
a fountain into her mouth
and lets her insides, drenched in seed,
flower into landscapes:
meadows sprinkled with baby’s breath,
hoarse twiggy woods, birds dipping, a multitude
of skies containing clouds, plowed earth stinking
of its upturned humus, and small farms each
with a silver silo.
But OK, we can play the game. The point of the poem, I suppose, is that fellatio is contraceptive, where vaginal sex can lead to making babies. So his poem turns, phantasmagorically, the dead-end into a new landscape in which his seed can sprout; the Pennsylvania farmland landscape of Updike’s own youth. It’s not about the secretaries’ insides at all. It’s a poem saying ‘isn’t it nice having your cock sucked?’, which is to say, it’s a poem whose implicit audience is male. ‘Having my cock sucked turns me into a fountain! It takes me back to the world of my youth! It’s all rain-damp woodland and dinky-little farms!’ To which the best response is: well, isn’t that nice for you.