Archive for August 2nd, 2010

August 2nd, 2010

Her Kind

Before I read Ann Sexton I thought poetry was Men Writing About Nature. (I knew about Sylvia Plath but that was more about The Bell Jar than her poetry.) My copy of her collected poems practically functions as a mood ring–I know exactly where the poem I need at any given time is. That might not make sense. Whatever. Plus Sexton was beautiful, sexual, and suicidal. What more could you want in a literary idol?

I find now, swallowing one teaspoon

of pain, that it drops downward

to the past where it mixes

with last year’s cupful

and downward into decade’s quart

and downward into lifetime’s ocean.

I alternate treading water

and deadman’s float.

When I read the Diane Middlebrook biography, things became more complicated. Her life was fucking epic, full of battles, poetry, love affairs, and mental breakdowns. She sexually abused her daughter. I didn’t read any poems for a long time after that. I kept thinking that Sexton’s work gave the world so much, but she couldn’t give her kids what they needed the most. I’m still so conflicted about it. It’s like how you just can’t look at Picasso’s work without thinking about how he beat his wives and lovers. People like the romantic parts of history but not the brutalities. I think Sexton would want us to think about it all. This is all sounding incredibly pompous but oh well.