Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sunday Scribblings--Google Magic (Anne Sexton)


Photograph taken by Rollie McKenna
This was a difficult prompt for me this week, as I'm someone who obsessively researchs anything that strikes my fancy. So how to think of something new to dive into? But I managed to think of a poet who has always interested me, and yet I knew nothing about her. Well, a little Google Magic fixed that.

So I wanted to write a bit of a mythic "soul biography" for her--Anne Sexton.

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Once upon a time there was a girl, for they were all girls back then--these women who stood stiff in crinolines with eyes that laughed hard through curls. This girl wore her beauty like normalcy, like a mask of grins. But her greatest gift was her way of seeing around corners and through the cement of society’s placid main streets, endless in their sameness. She could see the shadows at the core of everyone’s bones, the tales told hushed around so many kitchen tables. She sat, fearless, in a scene of dozy domesticity, and wrote her jagged lightening strike poems as her daughters patted dollies down for noontime naps.

Felled, and felled, and felled by depression relentlessly dragging at her guts and filling her lungs with coalsmoke despair--she tore herself open on the page, spilling forth her base confessions and her truth-giving voice to her woman’s life with its blood and messy yearnings--saying, "yes, this is important, your life, even you who have no education, who have no power...this can also be a voice, your experience. You can also be heard." She searched and found a tribe of listeners, muses, teachers and the taught--groups that fed her even as home life left her empty.

Soon she was toasted and celebrated by a world fascinated and caught up in her. She tried to use her words like bricks to wall off her depressions, sought therapy to make peace. But none of the accolades centered her as her life force scattered like so many dead Boston leaves. She drank, took lovers, obsessed, and fell into trances. Nothing brought relief.

Finally the girl sighed and breathed deep, but it was not air around her. And she was no more.

But like all good fairy tales, this one stretches back into hazy time and forward into all of our tomorrows. Because this girl pulled back her mask, because she grew too fierce and alive and prophetic for it, because she had to chant her truth loudly--she left her words. And those words are you, and they are me, and they are anyone who sheds her skin again and again at the kitchen table, lit by a fluorescent bulb of hope.

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.

From "Her Kind" by Anne Sexton
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For more Google genius, go here.

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14 Comments:

Blogger wendylou who? said...

I am so glad you wrote in your voice. i thnk you captured the true meaning of the prompt...Good job

Wendy

11:46 PM, September 16, 2006  
Blogger rachel said...

Have only read a few of Anne Sexton's poems. I love how you have written this, it is great

6:07 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Fabulous piece - really well done. Thank you for this glimpse into Anne Sexton's life and what fueled her poetry.

7:09 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

You've given research heart and bones and sinew. It is not a definitive story, but a tantalizing invitation into her world and poetry. You are a wonder.

11:34 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Becca said...

Very well done! I'm quite a Sexton fan, and I think you captured her extremely well.
I love your descriptive phrases too - "jagged lightning strike poems," and "those words are you, and they are me, and they are anyone who sheds her skin again and again at the kitchen table, lit by a fluorescent bulb of hope."

Marvelous!

2:57 PM, September 17, 2006  
Anonymous fern said...

Absolutely delicious. I got lost in your words...i loved this line:

"But like all good fairy tales, this one stretches back into hazy time and forward into all of our tomorrows."

What beautiful writing.
Your subject came alive...it really reminded me how extraordinary a single life can be.

5:05 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Bug said...

WOW. This is awesome. I love how your writing embodies poetry--you shared your research in such a delightful way. I particularly liked the opening paragraph.

BTW, Ann Sexton's grave is in the cemetary where I walk my dog. It has this great tree nearby where an artist laminated lines from her poems and hung them from the branches.

6:47 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Jessie said...

i love every single word you have written here, but especially:
"And those words are you, and they are me, and they are anyone who sheds her skin again and again at the kitchen table, lit by a fluorescent bulb of hope."
--because that, my dear, is stunning!

9:35 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger LuluBunny said...

I'm a huge Anne Sexton fan, but I'm also a huge fan of this post! It's beautiful :)

Happy Sunday Scribblings!

12:38 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

this is an amazing tribute. beautifully written. you have honored her well.

i chose the google a poet too--joy harjo

1:19 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

This is fascinating to me. I knew nothing about Anne Sexton and now I have a clue. Thanks for the info.

12:43 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Summer Pierre said...

Anne Sexton is one of my favorite writers! RIGHT ON.

12:59 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Verity said...

A wonderful tribute to a great poet. Thanks for reminding me of her and her work. Your words never fail to take my breath away.

2:25 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

This entire post read like poetry.

12:48 AM, September 19, 2006  

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