Sunday, January 13, 2013

Anne Sexton's "The Starry Night"

I've been reading Maxine Kumin's wonderful tribute to her friend and colleague the poet Anne Sexton "A Friendship Remembered" in To Make a Prairie. Here is Sexton's
"The Starry Night":

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of—shall 

I say the word—religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars.
- Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

Anne Sexton, “The Starry Night” from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.
Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981)

“Starry Night” is currently on view at MOMA in New York. Read more here 

Sexton Reading her Poem

painters and poets

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