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A poem by Anne Sexton on her 105th birthday

The Black Art

The Black Art

A woman who writes feels too much, 

those trances and portents! 

As if cycles and children and islands 

weren’t enough; as if mourners and gossips 

and vegetables were never enough. 

She thinks she can warn the stars. 

A writer is essentially a spy. 

Dear love, I am that girl. 

A man who writes knows too much, 

such spells and fetiches! 

As if erections and congresses and products 

weren’t enough; as if machines and galleons 

and wars were never enough. 

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With used furniture he makes a tree. 

A writer is essentially a crook. 

Dear love, you are that man. 

Never loving ourselves, 

hating even our shoes and our hats, 

we love each other, precious, precious. 

Our hands are light blue and gentle. 

Our eyes are full of terrible confessions. 

But when we marry, 

the children leave in disgust. 

There is too much food and no one left over 

to eat up all the weird abundance.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was an American poet who epitomized the style of confessional poetry which emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other exemplars of this style include her friend Sylva Plath and Robert Lowell. Her poems are highly personal and explore her struggle with mental illness, alcoholism, and suicide, and many are written within the context of her relationship with her husband and children. Despite a successful career as a poet—she received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967—she committed suicide soon after completing her eighth book of verse. She was born on November 9.

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The Black Art

A woman who writes feels too much, 

those trances and portents! 

As if cycles and children and islands 

weren’t enough; as if mourners and gossips 

and vegetables were never enough. 

She thinks she can warn the stars. 

A writer is essentially a spy. 

Dear love, I am that girl. 

A man who writes knows too much, 

such spells and fetiches! 

As if erections and congresses and products 

weren’t enough; as if machines and galleons 

and wars were never enough. 

Sponsored
Sponsored

With used furniture he makes a tree. 

A writer is essentially a crook. 

Dear love, you are that man. 

Never loving ourselves, 

hating even our shoes and our hats, 

we love each other, precious, precious. 

Our hands are light blue and gentle. 

Our eyes are full of terrible confessions. 

But when we marry, 

the children leave in disgust. 

There is too much food and no one left over 

to eat up all the weird abundance.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was an American poet who epitomized the style of confessional poetry which emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other exemplars of this style include her friend Sylva Plath and Robert Lowell. Her poems are highly personal and explore her struggle with mental illness, alcoholism, and suicide, and many are written within the context of her relationship with her husband and children. Despite a successful career as a poet—she received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967—she committed suicide soon after completing her eighth book of verse. She was born on November 9.

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