[The poetry collection was on my old site – it’s not hosted here any more, but I’ve tried to replace the old links with links to the same content elsewhere on the web.]
I don’t usually write commentaries for the section of this site where I collect poetry I love (never having studied literature beyond the O’levels, I don’t feel qualified), but after coding my favourite Anne Sexton poems, which are the latest addition, I feel compelled to write something.
To me Anne Sexton’s poetry is inescapably tied up with the course of her life, and much of it maps that tragic life out to its end: suicide, age 45, after losing a long battle with mental illness; read the poems knowing this, and sometimes you cry.
Yet all isn’t doom and gloom. Poems like The Fortress, Little Girl, My Stringbean, My Lovely Woman and Live pulse with love and life, and I chose to end the collection with Live, even though its joy soon faded with her later poems, and its wonderful ending is now more elegiac than inspirational, knowing that.
Then there are the lovely ways she uses words:
You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;
lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong
at my breast.
(Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward)
Your feet thump-thump against my back
and you whisper to yourself. Child,
what are you wishing? What pact
are you making?
What mouse runs between your eyes? What ark
can I fill for you when the world goes wild?
The Abortion: subtle imagery which I missed the very first time I read it, hard-hitting and painful ever since.
Read Anne Sexton. Please.