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The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton di Anne…
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The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton (originale 1981; edizione 1999)

di Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin (Prefazione)

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1,816177,494 (4.35)18
From the joy and anguish of her own experience, Sexton fashioned poems that told truths about the inner lives of men and women. This book comprises Sexton's ten volumes of verse, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Live or Die, as well as seven poems form her last years.
Utente:vidalporter
Titolo:The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton
Autori:Anne Sexton
Altri autori:Maxine Kumin (Prefazione)
Info:Mariner Books (1999), Paperback, 656 pages
Collezioni:La tua biblioteca, Letti ma non posseduti
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Etichette:poetry, read only

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The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton di Anne Sexton (1981)

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I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I got so much more than I bargained for.

As an English major I read more than my fair share of poetry. Mostly by guys, really. Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Milton, Wordsworth, William Carlos Williams. They were all showing me the nature of God, or perhaps god in nature. Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty---Keats was telling me what he thought I needed to know. While beautiful, It was all rather Didactic, I felt, and to a large extent, left me cold.

I was not prepared for Anne Sexton. She scares the crap out of me. I read the reviews of other reviewers who were familiar with her work, who already had their own favorite poems or lines. I am the newby. It makes me wonder how in the world did I major in English at a major university and not read her poetry. Is it because I (and almost all of my teachers) are men? Seriously, how can any survey of modern poetry not include Sexton’s work? Especially for the young. If I would have read her in my late teens or early 20’s I would have continued to read and re-read her all my life, just as these other reviewers have. I envy them having read and re-read her work.

If you haven’t read her and are willing to open your mind (and especially your heart) you need to get this collection. Reading it is like reading an autobiography of a brilliant, tortured yet often joyful, self aware genius, and as I said earlier, I was not prepared for her. From the very beginning I felt my heart in my throat. Her poetry is so different from what I have read before. I found myself thinking of the sheer pain some of these poems must have caused in their creation. I have never felt such suffering combined with such beauty. Yet through it all was, like Keats would have said, a beauty and truth---and the beauty was IN the truth. Whether she was telling the stories of her ancestors crossing to the new world, eulogizing a lost loved one, either a beloved aunt or an aborted child, or painfully working her way back from Bedlam to sanity, there is truth in these poems. Truth that makes your hair stand on end as she performs an autopsy on her body and soul. Her poems are so devastatingly personal that I was uncomfortable. It was hard knowing that much, seeing that deeply into another’s suffering and most embarrassing thoughts, or her fears, or her anguish---she is the most honest writer I have ever read. Is there anything held back? I never felt that there was an author hiding behind a veil. Anne Sexton opens up herself to the reader and to read her poetry changes you, I think.

This book stays near at hand and should be read over and over again.
( )
  ChrisMcCaffrey | Apr 6, 2021 |
N.B. I’ve decided to post this positive review of Annie even though some people (novelists, mostly) drawing on those late Sexton flip-out vibes make me want to flip a house myself with the sheer force of wrath, malice, and spite. (Or all the selfish people who, to hear them tell it, live for other people.)

.... Even at her most frankly distraught (or uncertain Eros, but I don’t make much of that, she was just a strange little lover and that’s fine), she was basically just winded from midcentury hyper-rationalism not finding divinity, which is what I think she really wanted. I don’t think Annie was ever really the sort of angry mob leader hypocrite that so often is our Radical. (And cf I’m a hypocrite, I want attention, and I’m going on the morning show!)

There’s a sort of person who listens to classical music, (on the car radio, say), not because they’re a scholar or even because they especially like how it sounds, but because it fills up the silence without frightening them. The classical forms of the mainstream Victorians and their predecessors can either make you very great-minded and even great-souled, or just a petty tyrant bent on controlling, locking down, censoring. This attitude, still with us today, was practically all there was in the post-Victorian ‘old wave’ of Sexton’s day, when the rebel cause of modern poetry had hardly made any progress since Whitman had barely left evidence of his own existence on the age’s Zeitgeist even after his explosion against the spirit of the poetry of the age, kings like Tennyson and even philosophers like Emerson.

This is still very much with us. Today you can choose to be different—and be hated for it. Today people talk about the Buddha with the same mindset in which they learned pre-Vatican II elementary school manners. (Guess what? Mommy knows you’re an empty container that just doesn’t know yet that it needs to get filled up with Dharma.) Of course it isn’t always so, but it’s common. And the rebel leaders who made the new age’s poetry were often, like Anne, very unstable, since they were, after all, explosions.

.... If you have turned up your noses at the least of these, post-Victorian critic, you have done it unto me. (Me, goosecap.)

.... “A cold sweat broke out on his upper lip/
for now he was wise.”

That’s just how it works, children. Wisdom is hard to bear. Wisdom is a fearful thing, “terrible as an army with banners”, /for it is Love/. The moiety is in the dictionary, but the greater portion is taken day by day like food, like daily servings of fruit and vegetables, along with the occasional burden of a less sleepy life.

Because little is it all worth, until you will suffer for doing well.

.... But it’s a bad poem, because it doesn’t encourage vegetarianism ;) /cha Ching/

That’s right I Am Socrates :D

—And Not Even The Census Taker Knows/
That That Is My Name

(And “Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)” is a really fucking good poem. As I type this it’s like I am anxious because it’s getting dark and it’s not even dark and I don’t want to go out and I don’t even want to be inside; it started when I was inside, in safe happy place—so basically I’m Briar Rose. And for me this is the worst thing.

And “After Auschwitz” is a poem I remember from being in the library when I was running away from home and opening a book at random and getting that poem and being like, yup.

Actually that part of the experience was good though this was a long time ago before my withdrawal-phase.)

(A note: Hans Christian Andersen once called, I think, anyway, essential oils “bottled poetry”; that would make poetry verbal oils, if you like. The point is that we’re not necessarily allowed in the city of the philosophers and I try not to preen like they taught us in lit class, and I don’t always respond like I do here, either. The essence is feeling and I feel like I can move on to the next poem not if I can explain what she’s on about but if I have a sort of typical food-style review— liked; eh—felt. “Thanks Annie; now /I/ can’t self-regulate either!”)

(But I guess sometimes love means giving up your content.)

(Annie just wanted to have Sex with God.)

(Of course, if she could have known peace then maybe things could have been better for her, but in her time those cold intellectuals were the near enemies of peace, so that’s a little much to ask. At any rate going crazy doesn’t mean you have less value as a person, it just means that things don’t go quite as you plan.)

(She’s like Ellie Goulding and then she’s not. Anyway....)

Cap out.
  goosecap | Mar 9, 2021 |
There was a period of my life where I was like, "OOH NO POETRY!", convinced I didn't like the stuff at all. Very slowly I emerged from this state of mind, and one of the poems that got me out of it was Anne Sexton's "The Truth the Dead Know," which I read in a 20th-century American literature survey class as an undergraduate. A semester later, when I had to read a poem aloud in an English education class, it was the one I picked, and my professor praised me for the feeling of my reading. It continues to be in my top five favorite poems, a great poem about grief and human isolation. So sometime around then I went out and bought a copy of Sexton's Complete Poems, but it wasn't until over ten years later that I finally read through the whole thing. Sexton's poetry is still top-notch (my habit when I read a book of poetry is to fold over the corner of pages of poems I particularly like, and there are dozens of such folds in my book now). It was interesting to see her transformation; without knowing much about her actual life, you can see a lot of youthful poems about romance and sex, which give way to ones that feel less overtly personal, religious poems and transformations of fairy tales, before circling back around to the personal again, but in a more retrospective way. I could probably write lots about this book, but to focus myself, I'll pick three of my favorites at random (excerpting from each), and then conclude with my second-favorite.

"The Gold Key" from Transformations (1971)

He turns the key.
Presto!
It opens this book of odd tales
which transform the Brothers Grimm.
Transform?
As if an enlarged paper clip
could be a piece of sculpture.
(And it could.)


Transformations is Sexton's book of fairy tale adaptations, and there's a lot to like in it: her takes on Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes," Hansel and Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty were all highlights for me. I was also really struck, though, by the last few lines of the book's opening poem, which sets up the book's whole project of twisting fairy tales. There's something really captivating in that final image of adaptation as taking a large paper clip and claiming it's a sculpture, which the poem simultaneously disparages ("As if") and affirms ("it could") the truth of.

"Rats Live on No Evil Star" from The Death Notebooks (1974)

Thus Eve gave birth.
In this unnatural act
she gave birth to a rat.
It slid from her like a pearl.
It was ugly, of course,
but Eve did not know that
and when it died before its time
she placed its tiny body
on that piece of kindergarten called STAR.


To be honest, I don't entirely know what to make of this one, which fuses Garden of Eden imagery with ideas inspired by a "palindrome seen on the side of a barn in Ireland." What is Sexton saying about the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge here, about humanity, about human happiness? I'm not sure, but I'm on the edges of understanding, something about the ugliness of humanity and our need to overlook it (as in the poem below, I guess) if we're ever going to be happy. But who knows what kindergarten has got to do with it.

"After Auschwitz" from The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975)

Let man never again raise his teacup.
Let man never again write a book.
Let man never again put on his shoe.
Let man never again raise his eyes,
on a soft July night.
Never. Never. Never. Never. Never.
I say these things aloud.

I beg the Lord not to hear.


There's something about how the speaker confronts the enormity of the Holocaust in this poem that I found very striking. The Holocaust is, of course, indefensible. But Sexton finds the whole human race indefensible after the Holocaust, even in great actions like writing a book or in minor actions like putting on a shoe, and the poem ends (as I've excerpted) essentially without resolution. There is no and can be no defense of humankind, and so the most the speaker can do is ask God not pass judgment, for if He did we would all be found guilty.

"The Boat" from The Book of Folly (1972)

Suddenly
a wave that we go under.
Under. Under. Under.
We are daring the sea.
We have parted it.
We are scissors.
Here in the green room
the dead are very close.
Here in the pitiless green
where there are no keepsakes
or cathedrals an angel spoke:
You have no business.
No business here.
Give me a sign,
cries Father,
and the sky breaks over us.


This is from a cycle of six poems called "The Death of the Fathers," and it's about a speaker riding in her father's speedboat with her mother off the coast of Maine. On one level it's always resonated with me because around the time I first read it was when my own father was becoming obsessed with boating, and I can see something of his pride in the way the speaker describes her own father: "Father / (he calls himself / 'old sea dog'), / in his yachting cap..." My father would never wear a yachting cap or call himself a "sea dog," but the sentiment is similar, the idea that when you drive a boat you command the world.

But pride leads to humbling, and that's the bit I really like (even though this bears no resemblance to any of my boating experiences): the Go Too III plunges beneath the waves and enters another world entirely hostile to humanity, one full of "the dead" and "pitiless" and without monuments built by humans. The ocean is inimical to human life, and will forever remain so on some level-- the poem reminds us that no matter what we might think we command, there are some things in nature that will always hold dominion over us, and if we survive them, it is only a temporary reprieve.
  Stevil2001 | Apr 20, 2019 |
One of my favorite of the confessional poets. ( )
  tldegray | Sep 21, 2018 |
I've always been drawn to confessional poetry, so inevitably one of the first poets I came across when I started researching this genre was Anne Sexton. I was immediately addicted. Anne Sexton was a brilliant poet with a brutally honest voice and I was hooked. The first book I bought of hers is proof of this -every other page is dog-eared and about 90% of it is highlighted. I am still fascinated by her poetry and how she never shied away from any topic. Her life, heartbreaking and tumultuous is basically chronicled in her collection of poems throughout the years.

The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton is exactly what it claims to be. It is a massive and truly complete collection. This book is an absolute must have!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review* ( )
  SpellboundRDR | May 15, 2016 |
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» Aggiungi altri autori (2 potenziali)

Nome dell'autoreRuoloTipo di autoreOpera?Stato
Anne Sextonautore primariotutte le edizionicalcolato
Kumin, MaxinePrefazioneautore secondariotutte le edizioniconfermato
Sexton, Linda GrayA cura diautore secondariotutte le edizioniconfermato
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From the joy and anguish of her own experience, Sexton fashioned poems that told truths about the inner lives of men and women. This book comprises Sexton's ten volumes of verse, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Live or Die, as well as seven poems form her last years.

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