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Since the World Wars, serious poets have tried to fill a God-shaped hole in the Western psyche.

Anne Sexton (1928-1974), a housewife and former fashion model who went on to win the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for verse, and to die by suicide in 1974, was no exception. She wrote first-hand about the search for God, in the process also exploring such taboo realms as masturbation, drug addiction, and abortion. Following a post-partum bout of mental illness in the 1950s, her psychiatrist urged her to take up writing poetry. Her disciplined approach to the craft seemed to be innate; she enjoyed superb family support as she practiced her calling, and the surrounding culture—academic Boston in the late 1950s and 1960s—seemed to be ripe for her innovation. Her reputation grew quickly.  

I have been enjoying myself tremendously, curled-up with Diane Middlebrook's 1992 biography, Anne Sexton, and with Sexton's Complete Poems. In her career and in her life, Anne Sexton grappled with modernity's weakening religious and moral strictures. Her timely struggles inform politics, as well, in ways I'll discuss below.

sexton

(Warning: Disturbing poem, possibly triggering.)

One poem, "The Addict," from Sexton's 1966 collection, "Live or Die," was shocking in its day, but is also trenchant in our own. It concerns one facet of the longing for transcendence. It reads in part:

(…)
Yes
I try
to kill myself in small amounts,
an innocuous occupation.
Actually I'm hung up on it.
But remember I don't make too much noise.
And frankly no one has to lug me out
and I don't stand there in my winding sheet.
I'm a little buttercup in my yellow nightie
eating my eight loaves in a row
(…)

(…)
with two pink, two orange,
two green, two white goodnights.
Fee-fi-fo-fum—
Now I'm borrowed.
Now I'm numb.

The tension between the embodiment of conventional womanhood, the "little buttercup," on the one hand, and the "borrowed, numb" transgressor, on the other, drives much of Sexton's work. Religion, remember, often doesn't mediate human contact with the absolute, anymore; poets of Anne Sexton's day address the vacuum it has left. The groping towards ultimate understanding in a secular age means flouting bourgeoisie dictates of restraint and "virtue," moreover, which have traditionally also derived from religion.

A "bad girl" herself, Sexton smoked like a chimney from her teens onward; she drank like a fish; she gulped pills. But she primarily flouted standards of conventional propriety through sex. She was married to one spouse for most of her adult life, apparently conventionally so. But she had many extramarital affairs, of all lengths and gradations of seriousness. The illicit liaisons are documented in her poems, often as ecstatic unions. From the poem "December 11," part of the series, "Eighteen Days Without You:"

Then I think of you in bed,
Your tongue half chocolate, half ocean,
of the houses that you swing into,
of the steel wool on your head,
of your persistent hands and then
how we gnaw at the barrier because we are two.

(...)

During Sexton's early forays into poetry-writing, while enrolled in Robert Lowell's seminal writing workshop at Boston University, Sexton frequently socialized outside of class with other students, several of whom also went on to become noted poets. She and Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck, among others, regularly gathered for drinks at the Ritz. Apparently, this crew also could not stay out of each others' beds. Wrote Plath, as paraphrased by Middlebrook:

...an insufferable woman (myself, of course),' maliciously tells a man's wife that her husband is having an affair with 'Anne,' then learns that he is having an affair with her. 'It becomes nasty busi-bodiness. THE OLYMPIANS. Poor, married poets in the Ritz bar.'
A bit before her seminar with Robert Lowell, Sexton met a fellow, more accomplished poet, W.D. Snodgrass, with whom she struck up a friendship. He became her instructor at the Antioch Writers' Workshop in Ohio in 1958, then called the Antioch Writers' Conference, and informal mentor thereafter. True to form, Sexton had a torrid affair with a fellow poet during the conference. She also tried to seduce Snodgrass. Middlebrook's striking words about Snodgrass's rebuff of Sexton's sexual overtures are written as an aside at the end of a paragraph:
For instructors at the writing conferences, thrown together day and night with creative people who had temporarily abandoned their families, flirtations were an occupational hazard. Snodgrass resisted seduction, adopting a mentorly role that stood Sexton's fragile psyche in good stead.
Throughout her life, Sexton had many deep non-sexual friendships. While most of her sexual partners were men, she also knew men—warmly, intimately—whom she, for her own reasons, theirs, or both, did not bed. Key examples were her longtime psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Orne, and a fan and friend, Brother Dennis Farrell. From her male associates' point of view, what made Sexton's platonic relationship with Snodgrass unique?

In keeping his sexual distance from his patient, who may have behaved seductively, Dr. Orne was abiding by a professional code of ethics. Brother Dennis Farrell was fulfilling his vow of celibacy as a Roman Catholic monk by not becoming sexually involved with Anne Sexton.

W.D. Snodgrass faced none of these constraints. We know he was a worldly man. He wed serially over the course of his lifetime and he serially philandered. The conference, to my knowledge, didn't and doesn't restrict contact by teachers and students in any way. Yet, for personal reasons, in a permissive literary and intellectual milieu, W.D. Snodgrass declined to become Anne Sexton's lover.

The decision Snodgrass reached, regarding the nature of his relationship to Anne Sexton, interests me much less than the way he seems to have reached it. I like to believe he was deciding rationally about his sexual conduct, as he saw it, weighing potential consequences of an affair with Sexton to himself and to all concerned. He didn't want to cause harm. He was acting independently, both of conventional religious teaching about sexuality, and of reflexive "mirror-image" rebellion and excess that teaching inspired.

Personal volition or conscience, not dictated by outside authority, on the one hand, or by rebellion against that authority, on the other, is a crowning human faculty. As we're keenly aware today, personal conscience threatens demagogic political interests' control of the masses. Demagogues undermine individual conscience by ignoring it as a potentially valid guide to human behavior. They point to non-conforming behavior, including rebellious excess, as sure evidence of "human depravity." They tout conventional religious piety as the one answer to that "depravity." They invent the "disease," then, which their measures, alone, supposedly "cure."

Conventional religion promises believers that God exists. But the modern poet has to search for God, or at least for "what will suffice" in God's stead. That search has produced some of the greatest moments in all literature.

Sexton wrote a poem, "Faustus and I," about an artist's search for transcendence, which throbs like a carnival organ. (While she wrote mostly un-rhymed "free verse," Sexton understood, and fully exploited the capabilities of, formal rhythm.):

I went to the opera and God was not there.
(…)
The voices were full as goblets; in mid-air
I caught them and threw them back. A form of worship.
In those vacant moments when the Lord sleeps
I have the voices. A cry that is mine for keeps.

The narrator searches, not only in an opera-house, but also in an art museum and a bookstore, and "God was not there." The search turns up only vulgar entertainment.

Perhaps Anne Sexton herself came closest to finding "God" when she came closest to realizing the sovereign character of human free will. To use personal sexual expression as an example again, for what seem to have been considered, personal reasons, she and James Dickey, a reviewer who became a friend, jointly declined to have an affair with each other. They decided that, we can be sure, for reasons other than a desire to conform to bourgeoisie notions of "virtue." They were acting as rational, volitional persons.

Abstinence, per se, isn't "better" than consenting sexual involvement of any kind. What's "best" in all situations, not merely sexual, is an awareness of one's own wishes, and a conscientious appraisal of possible consequences of one's behavior, to oneself and others.

Originally posted to karmsy on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 04:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hemingway (16+ / 0-)
    I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it…. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene.

    The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

    You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you.

  •  Four O'Clock in the Afternoon (13+ / 0-)

    And I didn't feel like very much
    I said to myself  hey, golden boy where is your famous golden touch?
    I thought you knew where all of the elephants lie down
    I thought you were the crown prince of all the wheels in  Ivorytown
    Look at your body now there's nothing left to save
    And a bitter voice in the mirror cries, Hey Prince, you need a shave
    Now if you can manage to get your trembling fingers to behave
    Why don't you try unwrapping a stainless steel razor blade
    That's right it comes to this
    It's come to this
    And wasn't it a long way down
    And wasn't it a strange way down.

    It's come to this.  I'd nominate Leonard Cohen to be right in there with Ann Sexton.  Except she didn't get the part about sex being religion.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 06:31:59 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this. (6+ / 0-)

    Well done.

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:14:43 PM PDT

  •  Yeats (8+ / 0-)

    How can I, that girl standing there,
    My attention fix
    On Roman or on Russian
    Or on Spanish politics?
    Yet here's a travelled man that knows
    What he talks about,
    And there's a politician
    That has read and thought,
    And maybe what they say is true
    Of war and war's alarms,
    But O that I were young again
    And held her in my arms!

    "Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica." -Abraham Lincoln

    by hotdamn on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:55:42 PM PDT

  •  I remember being very young (7+ / 0-)

    and reading Sexton and Plath ... not understanding intellectually but somehow understanding emotionally. It was like hearing poetry being read in a different language, not understanding the words but understanding the flow of the language, the way the sounds work against and with each other and create the message almost as much as the actual words and images. Reading the your quotes made realize both how much and how little I understood.

    I think I am now mature (some 40 years later) mature enough to understand a little better. I must dig out my books.

    "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

    by CorinaR on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:27:42 PM PDT

    •  The thing about a great (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CorinaR, Temmoku, johanus, RiveroftheWest

      poem is that it can draw you in just by being "pretty;" you don't really have to "get" it, not right away. You stay on, lingering over the poem, because of the beautiful images, the startling language. Slowly, as if on timed-release, the poem starts to make sense in a deeper way.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:57:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure that I would have used "pretty" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karmsy, RiveroftheWest

        to describe the poems ... more provoking or disturbing.

        Your time release made me think of maturity (mine not the poetry) bringing a certain patina to the work, a polishing that only age, experience and use can give to these poems.

        What a useful analogy for what the experiences of both the writer and the reader work to produce an experience.

        Thanks.

        "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

        by CorinaR on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 10:03:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  as a teeneage college sophomore I read (6+ / 0-)

      The Bell Jar straight through and then wrote my paper about it all in one weekend. Then I drank a whole bottle of creme de menthe to wash it all away. My roommate kindly typed the paper for me and made sure I climbed out of bed long enough to hand it in. Never again. I have been afraid of that book for decades now (occasionally opening it at the library to see if it has changed over the years). That desperate feeling of 'why should I bother today- it's only going to fall apart and have to be done again tomorrow-I think I'll just crawl in a hole in the basement instead...' I can't even go there in books or think about it. Talk about triggers.
          Even reading this diary today began as an adventure in daring- can I read this? Should I? Hmmm.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 05:49:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm reading this and thinking, "bipolar," (5+ / 0-)

    and then I google her up and see it right there in her diagnosis.

    Hypersexuality is common in mania.  Apparently even more common with manic women.

    My own impression of Sexton is that she seems to fit into a neat fifties feminist poet category along with Sylvia Plath.  I guess, because of that, I don't find her as interesting as Plath, who seems more thoughtful, but who also expresses the same feelings of being a trapped bourgeois white woman.  

    For instance, the first poem you quote, at the top, that sarcastically describes her as the buttercup in a yellow nighty,  reverting to children's rhymes, fe-fi-fo-fum while discussing something that would otherwise be considered unwholesome and unladylike.  She mocks her own comfortable station in life without ever coming out more boldly and asserting that this is not how I want to live.  It's passive and aggressive.

  •  Kathleen Norris worked at NYC's Poetry Foundation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, Temmoku, RiveroftheWest

    … when she was just out of college. Some of her experiences with poets and sexuality are described in her autobiographical book, The Virgin of Bennington.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ☮ ♥ ☺

    by lotlizard on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 03:38:06 AM PDT

  •  The God Hole has always (11+ / 0-)

    been a problem in poetry

    De God Hole Problem: Jamaican Song

    Down de ribber in de land of Me
    De poetry flow automatically.
    De strophes be kickin’ where de Ganja’s free
    To all de people so naturally.

    You is sittin at home
    Writin’ a poem.
    You tinks you is playing God’s trombone.
    Den de Lady says:
    “Dat a terrible fabulum
    What you got dere is A GOD HOLE PROBLEM!”

    Way day I see my half brother John
    Singing a sankey wid another mon.
    What sweet nanny goat a go run him belly
    De Lady say dat de song is smelly!

    You is sittin at home
    Writin a poem.
    You tinks you is all alone
    Den de Lady says:
    “No matter how you cobble ‘em
    You skanky poem got a GOD HOLE PROBLEM!

    Thomas Mann say to Irene Dunne
    “Tell me gal when we’s having fun
    But de Lady says “You must do penance!
    You gots a GOD HOLE Problem in “A Death in Venice!”

    I know a land dat is far away
    De land is called de EveryDay.
    Kiss me neck ! Dey ain’t got no goblin
    Always talking bout de GOD HOLE PROBLEM!

    You is sittin at home
    Writin a poem.
    You tinks you is all alone
    Den de Lady says:
    “No matter how you cobble ‘em
    You skanky poem got a GOD HOLE PROBLEM!

    But de say dere is Babylon
    Fayva like no kya weh im tun
    So I stay here wid my half Brother John
    What sweet nanny goat a go run him belly
    De Lady say my poem be smelly!

    You is sittin at home
    Writin a poem.
    You tinks you is all alone
    Den de Lady says:
    “It’s the same old pabulum.
    You skanky poem got a GOD HOLE PROBLEM!

  •  Thanks, karmsy. Ordered the bio from the (3+ / 0-)

    library and some of her poetry books. Your diary made me want to revisit the life and poems of this fascinating, tormented woman.

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 08:07:24 AM PDT

  •  Not to be a wet blanket (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, karmsy

    but it occurs to me to ask if there's any evidence that Snodgrass ever had affairs with his students before or after his connection with Sexton? Seems to me that would have some bearing on how we assess his decision regarding Sexton.

    I have to confess that I've never warmed to Sexton. She always seemed to come off as rather pallid in comparison to Plath who I consider one of the great poets of the English Language. At least I think "Daddy" is one of the great poems.

    That's why I'm glad to say that the erotic excerpt you reproduced really grabbed me. I'll have to give her another go.

    I have a problem with the "God hole" thesis. While I think that most, if not all, of my poems deal with themes of transcendence and what some would call spirituality, I have no faith that there is anything beyond this physical existence, hope and desire being distinct from faith.

    So am I seeking to fill a void left by the absence of God, or am I, in fact, simply reacting to stimuli as poets always have but without the context of religious belief?

    What to make of poets whose avowed atheism outstrips my own agnosticism?  

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 02:28:59 PM PDT

    •  About Snodgrass's (0+ / 0-)

      personal sexual dealings, he was married numerous times. This is not in dispute. His extramarital affairs--not necessarily with students--are also attested in Diane Middlebrook's biography of Anne Sexton.

      About my "God-hole hypothesis," well, how else would you explain the preoccupation of postwar poets with "finding God," when the public sensibility had clearly shifted away from God and religion, as attested in numerous cultural developments?

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:38:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess my point about Snodgrass is (0+ / 0-)

        that if he never had affairs with his students or if he had none after his connection with Sexton, it might suggest that this was a general rule with him rather than a decision specific to Sexton.

        Regarding post war poets interest in God, was this concern universal? It seems to me that the concerns of poets don't necessarily reflect the concerns of the larger culture, particularly when we are speaking of confessional poets.

        Mind, I'm not denying that some poets, both consciously and unconsciously, felt this absence and expressed it in their work. I'm just skeptical that it was a hallmark of  post war poets generally or exceptionally so. After all, the theme certainly predates WWII. One need only read The Wasteland to recognize that.

        Speaking entirely for myself, I think it likely more accurate to say that post war poets, to one degree or another, encountered the loss of moral certitude in the the wake of WWII and the ashes of Auschwitz. For some this would equate with God but not for all.  

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 03:44:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  W-e-e-e-ll... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          T.S. Elliot, unless I'm terribly mistaken, was at his most active and prolific after WWI. My diary didn't make it explicit, but I was referring to the era of modern warfare, generally, and its influence on poetry. Hell, Wallace Stevens was an avowed atheist, already, and he was, shall we say, pretty shaken-up by WWII. His longing for a connection to the divine, in the absence of God, is a preoccupation of "Esthetique du Mal." W.B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, and H.D. also come to mind as poets very concerned about the lapses of traditional religion in the face of technological warfare.

          Was this so much a preoccupation of poets writing before the World Wars? I don't know. I admit I haven't studied them enough for a quantitative comparison. But I think of older, metered verse, generally, as expressing more trust of traditionalism, including traditional notions of transcendence.

          W.D. Snodgrass, btw, was close to Anne Sexton's age, only in his early 30s, himself, when he met Anne Sexton, himself. No, most of his varied and colorful heterosexual career was still in front of him.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 08:22:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good points (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            karmsy

            I agree with seeing WWI and WWII as two parts of a whole. I think the first discredited the moral authority of inherited institutions, including religion, in the eyes of many but not the belief in humanity's capacity to reorganize itself. Hence the rise of radical, revolutionary ideologies in the inter-war period.

            WWII and the Nazi genocide made a complacent confidence in humanity's ability to organize itself in a moral and ethical fashion seem not just naive but dangerous. So the post war generation found itself in a world where one could seemingly put one's faith in neither God nor in innate human decency.

            The ecstatic eruption of the 1960's could be seen as a reaction to this, attempting in various ways to resuscitate and reaffirm such faith. The poetry that came out of that experience is, I think, often overlooked.

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 02:23:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  European Existentialism hit me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NearlyNormal, RiveroftheWest, karmsy

    like a force of nature when I was in my early twenties - far away from home (in Europe in the USAF) - Camus, Sartre, Ionesco.  Some of the same sentiments.  Emptiness.  No purpose in the great universe.  Ride the train and think about what people are wearing...and doing...and wondering.

    It was so freeing to this Catholic school educated young man.

    Thank you for this Diary.  I am glad to be distracted from Syria and all of that.

  •  Can some kind soul in Kosworld explain the last (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy

    lines of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street"? I read the Sexton poem and what it has to do with being out in a boat (with dad) on the ocean is beyond me.

    •  Oceans: eternity (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know the song, but poets have used the ocean to remind us of the eternal, of the murmuring spirit of the beyond, for ages and ages. The sea is mystery, and it is the infinite deep into which we may peer and never know. See, for example, the "sacred river" Alph running "down to a sunless sea" in "Kubla Khan": the sea is the realm of the spirits of the dead in that poem.

      In John Berryman's Dream Songs, the sea stands in for the mystery of death and the dead, and he was one of the contemporaries of Sexton. (His suicide was 1972.)

      Everyone's innocent of some crime.

      by The Geogre on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 05:17:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So unrestricted rutting is closest to the Divine? (0+ / 0-)
  •  Perhaps Snodgrass knew that he could not handle (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, ladybug53

    Sexton. You have noted that he was married often and was a serial philanderer, yet he may have been aware that he could never contain or control Sexton. He knew he would have become insignificant to her if he slept with her, and as a mentor/teacher always had a little power over her.

    The price of anything is the amount of life we are willing to exchange for it.

    by theslinger on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 07:43:15 PM PDT

  •  Yeah, I'm sorry to disagree (still) (0+ / 0-)

    That generation of poets was overshadowed by Eliot and Auden and even the Beats. They had an obsession to create "the American voice," as if there were a special effort one had to make, and -- perhaps because they were caught in the beginnings of "New York poetry" (NYC as the center of taste and location), moved, despairingly, toward the autobiographical.

    This autobiographical lyric could also be a reaction against the anti-biographical dictates of Eliot and the social demands of the Auden group. Rejecting any claim of being social observers (Auden) or prophet philosophers (Eliot/Pound), or pioneers of experience, they went for the personal.

    Some of the generation were brilliant. I'm a huge Berryman fan. However, if we must know their sex lives and passing appointment calendars, then it isn't their poetry we're reading, nor is their poetry what is standing time.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 05:12:44 AM PDT

    •  Regarding this: (0+ / 0-)
      Some of the generation were brilliant. I'm a huge Berryman fan. However, if we must know their sex lives and passing appointment calendars, then it isn't their poetry we're reading, nor is their poetry what is standing time.
      What I am doing, is discussing the personal lives of poets of a certain era, in light of what I see as the preoccupation of their careers: the quest to fill a God-shaped hole in the psyche.

      This diary is not a PhD thesis. If you want a literary criticism, look elsewhere.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 10:38:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry that you feel the need to be defensive (0+ / 0-)

        What you speak of as a "God shaped hole in the cosmos" can be understood as their brand new preoccupation, if you're a fan, but it wasn't if you have a wide view. The same quest was at the heart of one branch of Modernism. It was branching the Beats took, too.

        Furthermore, of the generation that gave us the Confessional poets, quite a few ditched any metaphysics and went to a neo-pastoral. The Black Mountain school's nature poetry was a turning away, and those poets were quite bed hopping.

        Going to the aesthetic to fill the spiritual is as old as Byron, if not the Hell Fire Clubs. What was Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground but an adopting of the aesthetic out of a rage against the silence of the skies?

        My point is that there has to be more, and the poets cannot rely upon knowledge of the personal to be part of the work, if the work is what we will value. I see them as a despairing generation of poets, overall.

        Everyone's innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 06:06:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  modernity's "weakening moral strictures" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch, karmsy

    ???

    or more precisely, modernity's "shifting moral frameworks"?

    I'd call it more a move away from a unitary moral authoritarianism into a more pluralistic (and confusing) set of underpinnings.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 07:33:27 AM PDT

    •  Fair enough. I realize my language (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      in the diary implied a value judgment I didn't intend.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 10:22:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought it might have come from (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karmsy, ladybug53

        a literary criticism synopsis or something, to be honest.  They like to write about things in that way.

        Just caught my eye, and I couldn't let it pass.  But it doesn't diminish in any way what is an excellent read and a real pleasure to ponder...

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 10:47:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is so much damn text in this venue, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          a gilas girl, ladybug53

          and a reasonable proportion of it is very interesting or worthwhile. There's a lot to compete with any one diary, is my point. So it's always a real honor when somebody comes by and leaves a comment who has obviously read, and fully digested, my work.

          Thanks so much.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 11:46:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Has anyone read Sexton's daughter's memoir? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch, karmsy, ladybug53

    I think it's titled "Looking for Mercy Street."Like  most memoirs of well-known artists' children, it left me feeling glad she wasn't my mother.

    Being raised by someone that unstable, driven and self-absorbed (yet lionized as brilliant) has to leave the son or daughter messed up, even if they weren't abusive, as Sexton sometimes was.

    Also like many such people, it seems to me Linda ended up with a twisted emotional attachment to the memory of Mother that she can't seem to let go of. I suppose the book was an attempt to make sense of it all.

    Unfortunately, she was named executor of the estate. Years of sifting through Mom's things, making decisions about them, answering letters and such, is the last thing I'd have wanted to do.

    •  Linda Sexton for sure hasn't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, dinazina

      had an easy row to hoe. This was true during her mother's life, obviously, and it's been true since her death.

      Part of her issue, as I see it, is simply that she's in the shadow of a famous parent/family member, trying to come into her own.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 10:25:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  interesting, thanx, eom (0+ / 0-)

    Those who quote Santayana are condemned to repeat him. Me

    by Mark B on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 03:48:12 PM PDT

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