Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Different voices speak to different people.  Sylvia Plath is a great poet and I can recognize her skill and talent but her writing never spoke to me (not even "You do not do, you do not do, any more, black shoe").  By contrast, Anne Sexton's writing has always spoken to me.

The first poem by Sexton that really connected was "For John, Who Begs Me Not to Enquire Further:"

Not that it was beautiful,
but that, in the end, there was
a certain sense of order there;
something worth learning
in that narrow diary of my mind,
in the commonplaces of the asylum
where the cracked mirror
or my own selfish death
outstared me.
And if I tried
to give you something else,
something outside of myself,
you would not know
that the worst of anyone
can be, finally, an accident of hope.
I tapped my own head;
it was glass, an inverted bowl.
It is a small thing
to rage in your own bolw.
At first it was private.
Then it was more than myself;
it was you, or your house
or your kitchen.
And if you turn away
because there is no lesson here
I will hold my awkward bolw,
with all its cracked stars shining
like a complicated lie,
and fasten a new skin around it
as if I were dressing an orange
or a strange sun.
Not that it was beautiful,
but that I found some order there.

That's a section of the poem, I could quote the whole thing. It had immediate meaning for me when I first came across it in Anne's TO BEDLAM AND PART WAY BACK.  All these years later, it still has an immediate connection.  I could quote the entire poem -- and nearly did.

This book (TO BEDLAM AND PARTY WAY BACK) and Anne Sexton's other books of poetry are collected in THE COMPLETE POEMS.  That includes LIVE OR DIE which contains my all time favorite "Flee On Your Donkey:''

This is madness
but a kind of hunger.
What good are my questions
in this hierachy of death
where the earth and the stones go
Dinn!  Dinn! Dinn!
Is it hardly a feast.
It is my stomach that makes me suffer.

Turn, my hungers!
For once make a deliberate decision.
There are brains that rot here
like black bananas.
Hearts have grown as flat as dinner plates.
Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing 
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That's what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it --
the fool's disease.

Anne can turn a phrase, her imagery is unique and powerful.  The way she sums herself up at the end of "For My Lover Returning To His Wife," "As for me, I am a watercolor. I wash off."  Or "My mouth blooms like a cut" the opening line of "The Kiss."

Take this sentence that appears seven times in one poem: "At night, alone, I marry the bed."

Get it?


The title of the poem is "The Ballad Of The Lonely Masturbator."  "At night alone, I marry the bed."  Get it now?

Her wording can be precise and it can be expansive -- and it can be both (and more) at the same time.  Of all the 20th century poets, Anne Sexton is my favorite.  Anne's writing always energizes me.  I'll close by quoting from "Her Kind:"

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming 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 a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

Again, it's THE COMPLETE POEMS and it let's you trace her move into more experimental forms as her writing moves along.  Everyone's trying to up book content in the community.  I'm already doing book reviews for the community newsletters and Ava and I often do book reviews at THIRD but this is my contribution for the year at this site.


Stealing from THIRD:

So far, the book coverage includes:

"Charlotte Chandler's MARLENE" -- Elaine.

"A sexist woman writes She's a Rebel and distorts music history" -- Ann.

"barbara ehrenreich's 'natural causes'" -- Rebecca. 

"Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook" -- Trina.


"Blackfish City" -- Marcia.

"THE CHICKEN CHRONICLES by Alice Walker" -- Ruth.

"Harry Belafonte" -- Mike.

"THE SAME RIVER TWICE (Alice Walker)" -- Isaiah.

"Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield" -- Marcia.

"Good for Jimmy Stewart, bad for readers" -- Stan.

"Conversations with Toni Morrison" -- Marcia.

"Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream" -- Ann.

 "He Ran All The Way" -- Trina.

And we'll also note Ann's "How a book store could stay alive in today's economy" about the book business.