“Sometimes she seemed like a woman without skin… (Jong)

“Sometimes she seemed like a woman without skin. She felt everything so intensely, had so little capacity to filter out pain that everyday events often seemed unbearable to her. Paradoxically it is also that skinlessness which makes a poet. One must have the gift of language, of course, but even a great gift is useless without the other curse: the eyes that see so sharply they often want to close. Her eyes were astoundingly blue and astoundingly sharp. Nothing escaped her. She saw everything, and since most of what there is to see in the world is painful, she often lived in pain. . . . Words spared her for a while. With the process of writing the poem, there is a kind of connection which sustains one. Then the poem is done and one is alone again. Other people may enjoy the poem later, but the poet can hardly relate to it. The poet is happy only while writing the poem.”

– Erica Jong, Remembering Anne SextonAnne Sexton (November 9, 1928 – October 4, 1974).

“Words” by Anne 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, from The Awful Rowing Toward God

“The Truth the Dead Know” by Anne Sexton

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
 

Anne Sexton, “The Truth the Dead Know” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr.

“It is three at night. I have something to say… (Sexton)

“It is three at night. I have something to say. You are so valuable. You shine out. You are a magic star. You are a body of blood made beautiful. How I admire, sit back and adore you. How thirsty I am for that. How you feed me.”

Anne Sexton, from a letter to Lois Ames dated 11 January 1969; AnneSexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters