On Wed, 31 Jul 2013 06:50:11 -0700, Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>"My Sweeney, Mr. Eliot": Anne Sexton and the "Impersonal theory of Poetry"
Anne Sexton and the "Impersonal theory of Poetry"
University of Exeter, England
The American poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974), although routinely categorized as
a "confessional" poet — indeed as the "mother" or "High-Priestess" of the
mode — infrequently used the epithet, preferring the term "personal." As she
explains: "my poetry is very personal. I don't think I write public poems. I
write very personal poems" and "I was writing personal poetry, often about
the subject of madness."
I looked into this a tiny bit after you sent it CR. One of Sexton's poems
has a title that should be familiar "Hurry Up Please It's Time". An except:
Once upon a time Ms. Dog was sixty-six.
She had white hair and wrinkles deep as splinters.
her portrait was nailed up like Christ
and she said of it:
That's when I was forty-two,
down in Rockport with a hat on for the sun,
and Barbara drew a line drawing.
We were, at that moment, drinking vodka
and ginger beer and there was a chill in the air,
although it was July, and she gave me her sweater
to bundle up in. The next summer Skeezix tied
strings in that hat when we were fishing in Maine.
(It had gone into the lake twice.)
Of such moments is happiness made.
Forgive us, Father, for we know not.
As for it being a personal poem Barbara has a thing to say:
And then last week my wife and I went to the shore at Rockport (the drive
from the approach to Gloucester to Halibut Point near Folly Cove is one of
my favorites.) In the distance you can see the Dry Salvages, painted white
by the gulls. Things are different now a hundred years from Eliot's memories.
The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale's backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
No more broken oars and the foreign men have to fish much further out so
their flotsam is not to be seen. We did see the a lobsterpot but squashed is
a better word these days than shattered as they are made of metal mesh and
cast out with polyproplene rope. Eliot probably missed out on something we
got to enjoy on the way home, fried clam bellies. They were first concocted
about the last summer he spent on Cape Ann.