Tag Archives: The Complete Poems Anne Sexton

Oui! C’est Moi!!

You know, I’m not violent at all. I’m way beyond even being a pacifist; if I accidentally kill an ant or a gnat, it will ruin my whole day.

But I am extremely maternal and my vocabulary gets truly ferocious when someone I love is being unfairly treated or attacked or something like that.

It’s kind of unbelievable how (loudly) protective I get, and it will happen in a heartbeat, going from 0 to Irish in 60 seconds.

And so, yesterday — wow, gang. All I can say is that it’s a good thing I live several thousand miles from Los Angeles. Peitor called to tell me about something going on in his personal life — he called it “odd” but I called it something like “petty fucking jealousy” and things along those lines (and lots worse) at sort of a loud decibel.

Peitor was being calm and rational about it, even though he was also upset, and even though he hates when I use the F-word, it was so out of control yesterday that he was actually sort of laughing about it. Sort of.

You know, some men like to fight their own battles, in their own ways, and don’t need some woman leaping in and getting her Irish up all over it and making everything horribly worse, so it’s a really, really good thing I was sequestered here alone in my house in the middle of nowhere.

It is such an amazing thing how, when things start going really good for you, someone you think would have your back or be excited for you,  suddenly gets so jealous. It happens all the time, you know. But it never ceases to amaze me. I am always so happy when good things happen to my friends or people I care about. Or even total strangers, for that matter — I just love to see good things happen.

So, those many hours of having my Irish up notwithstanding — I did have a really good day yesterday. And I streamed yet another episode of Professor T on PBS. Gang, that show is just so good. It isn’t just that the writing is great, but the storylines are so unpredictable, and the characters are truly 3-dimensional. They behave in ways that add real substance to the storyline. I just love it. And even though it’s a crime drama, it also has elements of humor in it that are also unpredictable.

Being a writer, I just really, really love that show.

Plus, I was listening to an old interview on YouTube yesterday, with the writer who wrote the explosive biography of Anne Sexton back in the late 1990s. It was really good. And it led me to finding a bunch of audio things of Anne Sexton reading her own poetry back in the 1960s. I listened to that for quite a while — sat at my kitchen table, looking out through my screendoor at yet another amazingly perfect summer evening. And just marveled at the poems. I already knew all of them, but it was interesting to hear her way of reciting them.

If you’re interested in hearing some of it, here is one of her more famous poems — “Letter Written On A Ferry While Crossing The Long Island Sound”.  It reads great on paper, but, in my opinion, it had a whole other dimension of flight and liberation to it when I heard her reading it out loud.

Overall, it was just a lovely evening. And I felt so grateful that the virus pandemic has actually forced my life to become really simple and just really beautiful in so many ways. Especially on summer evenings in the remote foothills of Appalachia — fireflies, poetry, peacefulness and all.

Today, I am going to do more work with Peitor on Abstract Absurdity Productions (wherein I will endeavor to move forward in a non-Irish manner). (I am Irish, btw, gang. I’m not just randomly picking on Irish people or anything.)

Then I am also going to try to spend some time figuring out how best to hang the cloth flower box thingie from the window sill of the barn. I have the cloth planter, I have the soil, I have the flowers. I have my drill battery charged (yes, the sole power tool which I own and actually know how to use), and I also have the hooks I need (I think). But the window sill is so old (110 years) that it is constructed very differently from any sort of window sill I’ve encountered before. And I also worry about the wood being so old — I don’t want to accidentally split it.

I wish that woman across the way from me had even an ounce of dyke-ness in her because then I’d go over and find some way to encourage her to come do this whole thing for me. She seems so capable. And she’s always out walking her little dogs so we always see each other.

But, you know, it’s also a good thing that she doesn’t have even an ounce of dyke-ness in her because, knowing me, it would get ridiculous. Well, ridiculously distracting and, likely, complicated.

Which reminds me, loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that last summer, I made a half-hearted attempt to upload an ad to one of those bi sex dating sites, and gave up yet again, because I am hopelessly inept at posting ads — it kept telling me I wasn’t doing it right, but then wouldn’t let me start over. (Plus, I knew there was not going to be anyone anywhere near me who would fit what I was looking for because, even while there are tons of bisexual women around here, non-smokers, non-drinkers, non-420-ers, non-meat-eaters — they don’t actually exist out here.)

Anyway, even though my ad was only half-finished and I couldn’t figure out how to actually remove it so it’s just sort of randomly hanging out there in the ether for all time, throughout the height of the pandemic, I got so many emails from (mostly men) replying to my ad.

Wanting to hook up.

During a pandemic.

And it never ceases to amuse and amaze me, how many men will reply to an ad that clearly says a woman is looking for another woman. It’s like something in their brains just cancels out the “wo” and sees only “man” instead. Just so funny. (Not to mention that it must show there somewhere on that half-finished ad that I haven’t even been to that site in a year.)

Anyway, I’m not going to answer any of these inquiries. But I did find it sort of astounding that during such a contagious pandemic, guys were still out there looking  to have random sex with strangers.

All righty!!

So I’m going to get going here today. I hope Wednesday finds you happy and healthy and enjoying your life. I’m leaving you with yet another song from Kris Kristofferson’s Silver-Tongued Devil and I album from 1971. This song I actually used to include in my set list on a lot of my gigs in my early folksinging days. I really love this song: “The Pilgrim -Chapter 33.” Listen and enjoy, if you so choose!! Thanks for visiting, gang. I love you guys. See ya!

“The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”

See him wasted on the sidewalk, in his jacket and his jeans
Wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile
Once he had a future, full of money love and dreams
Which he spent like they was going out of style

And he keeps right on a’changin’, for the better or the worse
Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found
Never knowin’ if believing, is a blessing or a curse
Or if the goin’ up was worth, the comin’ down

He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home

He has tasted good and evil, in your bedrooms and your bars
And he’s traded in tomorrow for today
Runnin’ from his devils Lord, and reachin’ for the stars
And losin’ all he loved, along the way

But if this world keeps right on turnin’, for the better or the worse
And all he ever gets is older and around
From the rockin’ of the cradle, to the rollin’ of the hearse
The goin’ up was worth, the comin’ down

He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home

There’s a lot of wrong directions, on that lonely way back home

© 1971 Kris Kristofferson

A Lovely Little Morning in Crazeysburg!

Wow, gang. The temperature dipped down into the 50s Fahrenheit, making for just a delightful little morning here. I could still keep some of the windows open during the night, but also get snuggly in bed. Perfect sleeping weather.

And now the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and it just feels like a perfect morning.

I got good work done on the edits of Peitor’s new book yesterday — still have a few days worth of work ahead of me, though. But he’s written a really cool book —  a really engaging read, so I don’t mind editing it at all.

And when I wasn’t editing, I was continuing to read Sharon Olds’ collection of poems, The Father. And even though it is extremely well written, and some very arresting imagery is expressed (it’s a collection of poems chronicling the death of her father), I just kept going right back to Anne Sexton’s Complete Poems. She just inspires me to the moon and back, you know? And she’s really moving me along in Letter #8 for Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse.

It’s weird because this is certainly not the first time I’ve read Anne Sexton’s poems, or even The Complete Poems — Wayne and I had that book, back when I was still married to him, back in NYC. And I used to read it.  But for whatever reason, right now, I am totally hooked into it. Totally. Can’t put her poems down.

And even while she is not the aforementioned “Muse” I’m writing to (i.e., “erotic love letters to the Muse”), she is definitely “musing” me right along right now. And I am really enjoying that flow.

I’m reading the Sharon Olds collection specifically because I began reading an academic book that focuses on how the “confessional- style” poets Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and Sharon Olds deal with the themes of father-daughter incest in their poetry.

(After Anne Sexton’s death, a previous psychiatrist of hers, violating the mandate of doctor-patient confidentiality,  released Anne’s private transcripts to the world (via a book about Anne’s life), revealing that she may have been the victim of incest with her father when she was growing up, and also that Anne herself had engaged in incestuous behavior with one of her daughters — with which that particular daughter concurred, later, in her own memoir.)

Sharon Olds doesn’t seem to have had that issue to contend with in her life, but some of the ideas she touches on in The Father poems could be construed as exploring a certain sexual energy, for lack of a better way of explaining it.  But, to me, it feels more like a human energy, a “thought-exploration” that opens all kinds of doors inside a woman’s mind when someone she loves has died. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as “incest” or even truly “Oedipal”, for that matter.

I’ve read a lot of Sylvia Plath in my life, but not a lot of Adrienne Rich poems, for some reason. But I still found that academic book (mentioned above) highly interesting because the incest theme is certainly a huge part of my own life and my writing (my biological father, not my adoptive one).  And the book did sort of indicate that, in regards to that specific theme in my life, I definitely seem to have never grown up. (I am paraphrasing, hugely.) But in that same regard, based on the author’s conclusions about Anne Sexton and Anne’s approach to that topic in her own work — and drawing from Freud and that whole crowd — neither one of us really grew up.

It could be that my intense immaturity is why I find Anne Sexton’s poems so inspiring! (I do, of course, jest.) (I think.)

Anyway. I appear to be deep into some sort of digression here.  Not sure how that happened. One minute, I was talking about the lovely weather, then the next minute, I was talking about incest…

But that’s just the splendiferous joy of spending time in Marilyn’s Room. We never know where my digressions will take us!!

Meanwhile…

Wow, I really enjoyed that movie I mentioned yesterday Behind the Curtain (1929). I finished streaming it last evening, and it did indeed have Charlie Chan in it — midway through, the location switches to San Francisco and that is where Charlie Chan is living at that point. AND, I might add, they had an actual Chinese actor playing Charlie Chan!! Something they don’t seem to have ever again done, until some remake in the early 1980s, or something like that.

Plus, Boris Karloff puts in an appearance, as well — playing a Persian manservant (!!).  But overall, I just felt the story was really good, really engaging. I mean the morals are outdated, but the storyline was really good for its era.  It was certainly a much deeper film than any of the Charlie Chan one-hour movies that Hollywood began making in the 1930s, when Warner Oland began starring as Charlie Chan. (And the Charlie Chan movies get even more formulaic after Warner Oland died and Sidney Toler was playing Charlie Chan — well in the 1940s. It gets to the point when I can no longer even watch them; they just become paper-thin.)

Anyway, Behind the Curtain was a nice surprise.

Overall, I had just a wonderful day and evening yesterday. Today, I’m scheduled to work again with Peitor on Abstract Absurdity Productions stuff. Plus chat with Valerie about design-related stuff for my upcoming novel The Guitar Hero Goes Home.

Which reminds me… I was chatting on the phone with my ex-husband, Wayne, in NYC, the other day. And he was commenting on a sample of the cover art I had texted him for The Guitar Hero Goes Home. Apparently, he had gone onto Amazon to see if the novel was for sale yet, and he told me he was kind of astounded by how many of my books are for sale on Amazon…

Well, this astounded me because nowadays I have only two-pages on Amazon, mostly for out of print books or for eBooks. Whereas, even just a few years ago, I had a couple dozen pages, and most of my books, from all over the world, were still in print.

Wayne commented to me, “Wow, you’ve really done a lot of writing.’

And then I thought, like: Wow, where were you the entire time we were married? You know? I was publishing tons of stuff the entire time we were married. I was winning literary awards all over the fucking place. Giving readings all the time — and not just in NYC, but in Boston, Cambridge, LA, London, Paris. I was using my advance money from publishers in Europe to take us on great vacations. And I was always, always, always working on one publishing project or another the entire time we were married.

It felt shocking to me that he seems to have no recollection of this. And it makes me wonder who he remembers being married to for 14 years, you know? It was actually kind of upsetting to me, but I didn’t say anything. We’re not married anymore, and haven’t been since 2007. There’s no reason to even go there, right?

However, it did sort of renew that feeling in me that the work women do is never deemed as important as what the men are doing. At least, in my marriage it felt that way.

Although, when I left Wayne and began living with Mikey Rivera, it was just so different. Mikey was unbelievably supportive of my writing — of every single thing I wrote. He was an under-educated Puerto Rican plumber, raised in a Brooklyn ghetto, but he was just so proud of my being a writer. And during those early years with him, I really began to write some of my best work.

Anyway. Life goes on.

So, I’ll close this now and get Saturday happening here! Thanks for visiting, gang. I was listening to the Essential Nina Simone last night while drifting in and out of sleep — and, eventually,  I was dead to the world as it played on into the darkness and turned itself off.

What a great collection! I’ll just randomly leave you with her version of a BeeGees’ song I’ve always loved, “To Love Somebody.” Listen and enjoy, but the entire selection is just stellar. And have a great Saturday, wherever you are in the world, gang! I love you guys. See ya!

 

Remember them as you see fit!

First, before I launch into the merriment of this holiday which is meant to honor the dead who served our country in some form of military service, but is now more about cookouts and picnics and going to the lake or beach, etc. — I just wanted to say that I don’t think my lungs are ever going to get back to normal!!!

Basically, I’m breathing fine now but as soon as high humidity is in the air (like today), it once again becomes a struggle to catch my breath.  I’m starting to feel like this is permanent — that a little bat disease is part of my lungs now. Forever and for all time. (It has been over two months now.)

I happen to love bats so, you know, I guess I’ll deal with it, but it is really frustrating that it just won’t go away.

Okay!! Well. I’m doing laundry here. It’s another absolutely stunning day (high humidity notwithstanding).  I like to think I’m going to go out and clean up those leaves that are still hanging out around my front porch, but we’ll see. I’m still working on that new “Letter” (#8 “The Choice to Kill”) for Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse. And once I’m on a roll, it’s seriously hard to get me to stop and do anything else — unless, of course, a natural stopping place simply happens all by itself.

I’m also now reading  The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, after having read Live or Die (1966) the other day, about 3 times in a row. (A great book of poems — it won the Pulitzer Prize for that year.)

The Complete Poems is sort of like an orgy of awesomeness. It includes ten volumes of her poetry — including Live or Die, along with 2 complete books of posthumous poems, as well as the very last poems she wrote, and then also a bunch of poems from the entire course of her career that she had set aside because she didn’t know where they fit in.

If you like Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems is a real treasure, since you can see how her writing style progressed over the years all under one cover.

I like all of her poems, but I prefer the ones from around 1960 – 1967.  Her later poems, from 1971-1974 are still very good but sort of merciless. I can identify with everything she writes about, but the closer she gets to committing suicide (she killed herself in Oct.1974), the harder it is for me to take, because I totally relate to all that stuff she writes (and seems to think about constantly) and I don’t want to, you know?

(And in fact, 1974, the year she finally committed suicide, was a truly horrible year for me. Just the nadir of my existence. So I have my own personal demons rumbling under her poems at that point, too.)

The difference between a writer/woman like Anne Sexton and a writer/woman like me (except for the glaring oversight that I haven’t won my Pulitzer Prize yet!!): She seems to have been waiting her whole life for the right time and place — the exact moment — to kill herself. It seems like her entire life (she lived to be 46) was just something she did while waiting for the best moment to die. (She attempted suicide a few times.) And that’s okay. It’s not a judgment; it’s an observation.

I’ve actually known a few writers who were  like that (who ultimately also committed suicide). But I just don’t want to be one of those. It is something I fight against with everything that I am. (I attempted suicide twice, between 1975 – 1979, and have struggled from suicidal depressions ever since.)

The thing that has (sort of) saved me, though, is that at least in Western society, women are no longer expected to find the best possible husband, help him earn as much money as he can, have children, run a perfect house while the man goes out and is the one who does all the great stuff — and try to have a stellar writing career of her own. (Assuming they don’t go out of their fucking minds  — i.e., Diary of A Mad Housewife or Anne Sexton’s whole life.)

It’s still a choice you can make if you want to — and a ton of women still do — but society, as a whole, doesn’t really care anymore if you’re a woman and don’t want to go that route.

Another glaring difference between Anne and me — she re-committed herself to the same mental hospital several times.

When I was committed to a mental hospital — a private one, like the one Anne describes in her poems; the kind of hospital that doesn’t seem to exist anymore because they became indescribably expensive– I was committed against my will and hated every moment of it (nearly 5 months). And while in there I was exposed to a lot of the older patients who were there by choice and seemed to be content to live their entire lives there — re-committing themselves when their outside lives became unmanageable for them.

Here are some shots from the hospital I was in over 40 years ago — it’s closed now:

When I was there, the roads were paved but the entry still looked just like this.
I remember standing on this porch many times and just wanting to run away.
Here’s a photo of the demolition getting underway, sometime in the early 2000s, I think.
More of the demolition — but that white building was the Arts Therapy building (and the upstairs was the schoolhouse). In  Arts Therapy I learned about Jackson Pollack and Picasso. And I also stole a bottle of black India ink and some needlepoint needles, because me and my roommate, Kathy, were going to give ourselves tattoos. (We did. With varying results.)

I found those sort of “eternal” adult patients truly horrifying, since I would have given anything to get out of that place. And once I got out, I never wanted to go back. A couple of the people my age that I became friends with in there, developed that habit of going in & out of mental institutions well into their adulthood. And I just found that horrifying.

And it wasn’t that I didn’t continue to suffer from mental illness — because I did. But I hid it to the best of my ability because freedom has always meant everything to me. Even the freedom to be fucking nuts.

Well, anyway!! Whenever July 14th rolls around each year (the day I was committed in 1975), I celebrate my freedom, regardless of whatever else might or might not be going on in my life; at least I’m free.

Okay! I hope this finds you feeling really free today, too, regardless of the waning pandemic and the continuing social restrictions. I’m going to get back to the laundry and then get back down to work on Letter #8 for Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse.

Thanks for visiting, gang.  I leave you with my breakfast-listening music from this morning — a leftover from Bob Dylan’s birthday yesterday: Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust,” a song she wrote for him back in 1975 (after suddenly getting a phone call from him again after they’d been split up for many years).  It’s one of my favorite songs of hers (followed closely by “Love Song to A Stranger,” “Blessed Are…” and “Billy Rose”). So listen and enjoy and have a great Memorial Day (or Monday) wherever it takes you. I love you guys. See ya!

“Diamonds & Rust”

Well I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that’s not unusual
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

Well you burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes the girl on the half-shell
Would keep you unharmed

Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling around
And snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there

Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It’s all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid

© – 1975 Joan Baez