Thursday, March 23, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Sexton


Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.

Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren't good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.

~ Anne Sexton ~

             1928 - 1974
Anne Sexton, acclaimed confessional poet, was the 1967 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry. A close friend of poet Maxine Kumin, and a colleague and friend of Sylvia Path, Sexton wrote poetry about her life as a woman, her depression and torment. It was poetry that kept her alive: she suffered from mental illness and alcoholism for years, making 2 attmepts on her life. Despite her success as a poet and speaker, she finally did kill herself at age 46 in the garage of her MA home; death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Photography Credit: Anne Sexton Photograph; Rollie McKenna, photographer;
University of Pennsylvania, Photographs of American Poetry Review Records,

Words: How important they are...these utterances which keep us connected and give us language by which we speak, write, teach, learn, invent, search, collaborate, find commonality and differences, create community, share lives, and make love. These most enchanting of tools can become the most hurtful at the turn of a letter or tone. We are always charged with remembering how powerful words can be, how selection is critical to the moment, to the truth, and to the heart.


mermaid said...

It's so hard to find the right words. I feel like the ones that kiss me are the ones that drip from my fingertips faster than the pen can write them or the keyboard can type them. The ones that bruise are the ones that are contrived for others.

GoGo said...

Sexton is amazing. Six holy oranges...the legs of summer...what imagery encapsulated in words.

This is on my summer list.

Kisses or bruises she knows how to use 'em!

tara dawn said...

You know how I love Anne Sexton...and I love the words you added very true, so very true! Thanks for sharing this poem!
love, TD

liz elayne said...

this image of the words that kiss or sting. yes. it is easy for us to forget this but we have to remember and remember and remember once again.
i have been drawn to sexton lately (in the bookstore, when i find myself lost in the poetry section). need to check out one of her books from the library. do you have any suggestions for where i should begin?

Sky said...

Liz - I would begin with her biography written by Diane Middlebrook (with information and letters provided by her daughter Linda), and then I would pick up Collected Poems which is a collection from all the work, including the posthumous poetry. The biography is riveting and sad for all concerned. Her mental health issues began around 1954-55 following post partum depression and expanded into significant disease. In reading this first you will gain insight into the life which generated the poetry. As you read the poetry it will be richer from this knowledge, I suspect.

Wenda said...

I just couldn't go to bed without seeing what you'd chosen for today's poem. I love the choice you made. And, do tell please, from where came the word picture?

Sky said...

Thanks, Wenda. I made it in a paint program using different colors for the words. Then I changed the color of the entire jpg by adding more blue to the mix. This changed the colors of the words to various shades of blues and purples and and made the yellows fade into the background.

ESB said...

gorgeous poem....

Endment said...

What a powerful poem

Great graphic!

Sarah said...

This is wonderful. I always enjoy pieces that tell of the writer's love affair with words and writing. Thank you for introducing me to Anne Sexton.

MB said...

What a great poem.

This reminds me (loosely!) of the Dylan Thomas quote that whiskeyriver recently quoted to me:
"I am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy."
- Dylan Thomas

megg said...

Wonderful - I haven't read this poem before. I have a feeling I've needed Poetry Thursday more than I realize! Thanks so much for this!!

Tabor said...

That love affair with words that we all have and then realize that, like love, words can be painful, dangerous and powerful.

Mary said...

Sky: What a beautiful poem, and new to me. Thank you.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

A beautiful, inspirational poem. Her imagery is spectacular. Each word a delicious and perfect choice.

Tammy said...

Sky, I love reading the poetry you post. I never read poetry and at 44 I am writing it. It is not very good, but it helps me express myself. I have learned to appreciate poetry by reading your blog. I love that you tell me about the authors too. Thank you!

P.S. I saw the CNN special, it was really cool. Brings me hope. Thanks :)