Everything sublime is as difficult as it is rare. Baruch Spinoza

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Poetry Wednesday


Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.
Anne Sexton

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 that kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Anne Sexton 1928 - 1974

I have been reading a little bit of poetry lately, mostly poetry written by tragic women. Anne Sexton is one of those women. She asphyxiated herself by automobile in her garage after having lunch with a friend and fellow poet, Maxine Kumin.

It seems great poetry and tragic lives go hand-in-hand. I don't know, do they feel too much, which makes them great or, are they so damaged early on that the way to deal with it is poetry. It's probably both.

I like this poem. 
 

11 comments:

  1. I think that many artist look into themselves an awful lot. It is helpful in understanding exactly how you feel and thus being able to express it very succinctly, but it is a very lonely place to be.

    I believe that it is hard to continue to justify a life that is not connected to other lives. By dedicating themselves to themselves many artists lose their purpose. I believe as social creatures we are wired to need to be needed. Mixing self absorption, self expression, and real life is very difficult.

    I do not believe that all artists find themselves wallowing in the deep inner core of themselves and I do not think it is necessary either. I just think it is incredibly easy to get there when you are dedicated to expressing yourself. I think that expressing your interaction with others is a healthier way to do it but then the art is not a visceral and raw and does not allow us those quiet moments to also drop into total self reflection.

    Even as I appreciate these artists I am sorry that they never learned to give to others in a way that fulfilled them. I have too many friends from art school who are in the same tragedy filled lives and many have ended their own lives too young.

    Thank you for sharing the poem it is beautiful.

    Ash

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  2. Thank you for your insight. I agree with your point, that not all artists are tragic. It seems poets have more problems with depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide. But then poetry takes you inside yourself relentlessly.

    It's a good thing for me I was not blessed with the turn of a word, because I have a tendency toward being morose as it is. I don't think I could have survived myself either.

    I think most women can find themselves at some time in their lives in that poem.

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  3. I like the little of Anne Sexton's work I've read. I would agree that introspection is both the artists curse & genuis. I do not think it should be used as an excuse for bad behaviour of any type. Too much introspection is a very unhealthy place to be. Being able to expreess the commonalities of all people in some form does not automatically make someone a superior human being either.

    O.k, if you like Sexton do you also like Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost or T.S. Eliot? [I don't know a lot of American poets. :)]

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  4. I pondered the idea, are they damaged so badly early on that they find poetry? Or does the introspection damage them? There is a thread of depression that runs through poets.

    As far as the poets you listed, yes, yes and yes.
    I was consumed with Plath as a teenager. It's surprising that I made it out of my teens alive!

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  5. Ok, now for the really big question...have you read any Judith Wright? [P.S Eliot is my very favourite poet.]

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  6. And the even bigger answer, until just now, no! I looked her up and read three of her poems; 'Request to a Year', 'South of my Days' and 'The Old Prison'.

    She has a distinctive style that I think was forged in Australia! I particularly enjoyed 'South of my Days'.

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  7. mmm, she does some lovely stuff on pregnancy & mother/child ~ wonderful imagery ~ that I think deserves a wider audience. Which other poets do you enjoy reading?

    Returning to an earlier comment: I suspect too much introspection breeds depression. I also suspect some personality types are more prone to both introspection & depression than others. When that is linked to an artistic temperment you get the famous *artistic temperment*. I was lucky to survive my teens & have made a conscious effort since NOT to get caught in that cycle. As Ashley said, there are plenty of sane artists around but for some reason we never think they are half so interesting as the self~ destructive tormented ones. Maybe that's a quirk in us?

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  8. I tossed an interest in poetry away long ago. I tossed lots of things away a long time ago! I just recently picked up the interest again. I seem to enjoy the alcohol riddled types!

    Perhaps we find them more interesting because they are. Or perhaps because people in general are drawn toward chaos.

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  9. Could great poetry not also be created by those with dull and mundane lives? I personally can find it just as, if not more, interesting as the deep poems full of emotion. Having an uneventful and laid back life can give a new perspective on things...it can create a deeper imagination.

    Sorry Sandra...It's been a terrible day, and I've been in the fighting mood. I don't mean to seem as if I were disagreeing with your statement.

    And the poem is great...It makes me wonder, what has she been through in her life?

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  10. Interesting.
    I found myself studying the picture and counting her fingers.
    That about sums up my take on poetry, LOL. I struggle with being to literal in everything.
    I do adore words. You have a way with them and that's why I'm here reading your blog instead of what I should be doing: sleeping! Off to bed...

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  11. Corey, I think you are right. As Ashley said, not all artists are tortured! And you can disagree with my points if you want to. I'm only a minor Diva. : )

    I believe I am drawn to dead poets of desperation!

    Jean, she has a cigarette in her hand, did you count that? : )

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I really appreciate the concept and sentiment behind awards, but I cannot participate in them anymore. I have too may and I have not got the time to devote to participating properly. To all who have honored me, I am grateful but I don't have seven more things to tell anyone about myself! And I'm a terrible passer-oner.