Anne Sexton

February 27, 2007


Anne Gray Harvey
Educated at Garland Junior College, then married and had two daughters
Repeated suicide attempts led to hospitalization
Began to write poetry as part of her therapy
Appointed as a scholar at Radcliffe Institute
Won Pulitzer Prize in 1967
Committed suicide at 45 by idling her car in a closed garage
After Plath’s suicide, Sexton was envoius
Death led to a fear of leading women poets responding in suicide
Studied with Robert Lowell in the same seminar as Sylvia Plath
Poetry transgresses conventions governing responses to the dead
Said in an interview:

“Poetry should be a shock to the senses. It should almost hurt.”


Gond, I say and walk from church, / refusing the stiff procession to the grave, / letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. / It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate / myself where the sun gutters from the sky, / where the sea swings in like an iron gate / and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones / from the whitehearted water and when we touch / we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone. / Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes / in their stone boats. They are more like stone / than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse / to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

-The Truth the Dead Know (in whole)

“For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959”

The town does not exist / except where one black-haired tree slips / up like a drowned woman into the hot sky. / The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars. / Oh starry starry night! This is how / I want to die.
It moves. They are all alive. / Even the moon bulges in its orange irons / to push children, like a god, from its eye. / The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars. / Oh starry starry night! This is how / I want to die:
into that rushing beast of the night, / sucked up by that great dragon, to split / from my life with no flag, / no belly, / no cry.

-The Starry Night (in whole)

“That does not keep me from having a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars.” – Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The night of my cousin’s wedding / I wore blue. / I was nineteen / and we danced, Father, we orbited. / We moved like angels washing themselves. / We moved like two birds on fire. / Then we moved like the sea in a jar, / slower and slower. / The orchestra played / ‘Oh how we danced on the night we were wed.’ / And you waltzed me like a lazy Susan / and we were dear, / very dear. / Now that you are laid out, / useless as a blind dog, / now that you no longer lurk, / the song rings in my head. / Pure oxygen was the champagne we drank / and clicked our glasses, one to one. / The champagne breathed like a skin diver / and the glasses were crystal and the brid / and groom gripped each other in sleep / like nineteen-thirty marathon dancers. / Mother was a belle and danced with twenty men. / You danced with me never saying a word. / Instead the serpent spoke as you held me close. / The serpent, that mocker, woke up and pressed against me / like a great god and we bent together / like two lonely swans.

-The Death of Fathers

I have gone out, a possessed witch, / haunting the black air, braver at night; / draming evil, I have done my hitch / over the plain houses, light by light: / lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. / A woman like that is not  awoman, quite. / I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods, / filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, / closets, silks, innumberable goods; / fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves: / whining, rearranging the disaligned. / A woman like that is misunderstood. / I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver, / waved my nude arms at villages going by, / learning the last bright routes, survivor / where your flames still bite my thigh / and my ribs crack where your wheels wind. / A woman like that is not ashamed to die. / I have been her kind.

-Her Kind (in whole)

Here, / in the room of my life / the objects keep changing. / Ashtrays to cry into, / the suffering brother of the wood walls, / the forty-eight keys of the typewriter / each an eyeball that is never shut, / the books, each a contestant in a beauty contest, / the black chair, a dog coffin made of Naugahyde, / the sockets on the wall / waiting like a cave of bees, / the gold rug / a conversation of heels and toes, / the fireplace / a knife waiting for someone to pick it up, / the sofa, exhausted with the exertion of a whore, / the phone / two flowers taking root in its crotch, / the doors / opening and closing like sea clams, / the lights / poking at me, / lighting up both the soil and the laugh. / The windows. / the starving windows / that drive the trees like nails into my heart. / Each day I feed the world out there / although birds explode / right and left. / I feed the world in here too, / offering the desk puppy biscuits. / However, nothing is just what it seems to be. / My objects dream and wear new costumes, / compelled to, it seems, by all the words in my ahds / and the sea that bands in my throat.

-The Room of My Life (in whole)


2 Responses to “Anne Sexton”

  1. varundbest Says:

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