'Consorting With Angels' by Anne Sexton

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I was tired of being a woman,
tired of the spoons and the post,
tired of my mouth and my breasts,
tired of the cosmetics and the silks.
There were still men who sat at my table,
circled around the bowl I offered up.
The bowl was filled with purple grapes
and the flies hovered in for the scent
and even my father came with his white bone.
But I was tired of the gender things.Last night I had a dream
and I said to it...
"You are the answer.
You will outlive my husband and my father."
In that dream there was a city made of chains
where Joan was put to death in man's clothes
and the nature of the angels went unexplained,
no two made in the same species,
one with a nose, one with an ear in its hand,
one chewing a star and recording its orbit,
each one like a poem obeying itself,
performing God's functions,
a people apart."You are the answer,"
I said, and entered,
lying down on the gates of the city.
Then the chains were fastened around me
and I lost my common gender and my final aspect.
Adam was on the left of me
and Eve was on the right of me,
both thoroughly inconsistent with the world of reason.
We wove our arms together
and rode under the sun.
I was not a woman anymore,
not one thing or the other.O daughters of Jerusalem,
the king has brought me into his chamber.
I am black and I am beautiful.
I've been opened and undressed.
I have no arms or legs.
I'm all one skin like a fish.
I'm no more a woman
than Christ was a man.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Consorting With Angels: A Masterpiece of Confessional Poetry

Anne Sexton, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, is a towering figure in contemporary American poetry. Her confessional poems, written with raw emotional power, have been praised for their honesty, intimacy, and daring. In her collection "Consorting with Angels," Sexton explores themes of religion, spirituality, and mortality, with her characteristic wit and irony. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve into Sexton's masterful use of language, imagery, and metaphor, and examine the underlying themes and motifs that make "Consorting with Angels" a timeless work of poetry.

The Language of Confession

Sexton's confessional poetry is known for its frankness, its willingness to reveal intimate details of the poet's life, and its use of personal experience as a means of exploring universal themes. In "Consorting with Angels," Sexton continues this tradition, using language that is frank, raw, and often shocking. Her poems are filled with sexual imagery, references to mental illness, and confrontations with death. She famously described her own poetry as "the vomit of the soul," and this is apparent in the visceral quality of her language.

One of the most powerful aspects of Sexton's poetry is her use of metaphor. She often uses metaphor to describe her own mental state, as in "The Addict," where she writes:

I have been a woman for a long time. Beware my smile, I am treacherous with old magic and the noon's new fury.

Here, Sexton compares her own internal struggles to "old magic," suggesting that her mental illness is something primal, ancient, and almost supernatural. She also uses metaphor to explore the theme of religion, as in "For My Lover, Returning to His Wife," where she writes:

There is no grace in my womanhood. It is not kind or unkind. I do not seek salvation. I seek a partner for the dance.

In this poem, Sexton uses the metaphor of the dance to describe the relationship between herself and her lover, but also to suggest a larger, more spiritual meaning. The dance becomes a metaphor for life itself, and the search for a partner becomes a search for meaning and connection.

Exploring Themes of Religion and Spirituality

Religion and spirituality are recurring themes in "Consorting with Angels," and Sexton's approach to these themes is complex and nuanced. On the one hand, she is critical of organized religion and the patriarchal structures that underpin it. In "The Jesus Papers," for example, she writes:

Christ, you did not die for this, the church that wears your name is a whorehouse of hypocrisy, a marriage bed of corruption.

Here, Sexton is attacking the hypocrisy and corruption of the church, and suggesting that the message of Christ has been lost or corrupted over time. She is also critical of the way that women are marginalized within organized religion, as in "The Truth the Dead Know," where she writes:

For women, it's like admitting a crime.

Here, Sexton is describing the way that women are often excluded from religious practices, or are made to feel guilty or ashamed for seeking spiritual fulfillment.

On the other hand, Sexton is deeply interested in spirituality, and often uses religious language and imagery in her poems. She is particularly drawn to the figure of the angel, as in "The Angel of Death," where she writes:

I am your opus, I am your valuable, the pure gold baby that melts to a shriek. I turn and burn. Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Here, Sexton is using the metaphor of the angel to describe death, suggesting that death is a kind of rebirth, or transformation. She is also suggesting that death is something to be embraced, rather than feared, and that it is a natural part of life's cycle.

A Masterpiece of Confessional Poetry

"Consorting with Angels" is a masterpiece of confessional poetry, filled with raw emotion, vivid imagery, and profound insights into the human condition. Sexton's use of language is both powerful and poetic, and her exploration of themes of religion, spirituality, and mortality is deeply moving. Reading these poems is like having a conversation with Sexton herself, as she bares her soul and invites us to do the same. What emerges from these conversations is a sense of empathy and understanding, a sense that we are not alone in our struggles, and that even in our darkest moments, there is hope for redemption and renewal.

In conclusion, "Consorting with Angels" is a remarkable book of poetry, one that deserves to be read and re-read by anyone who is interested in the power of language to express the deepest truths of the human experience. Sexton's confessional poetry is a testament to the enduring power of art to heal, to console, and to inspire.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Consorting With Angels: An Analysis of Anne Sexton's Masterpiece

Anne Sexton's Poetry Consorting With Angels is a masterpiece that has captivated readers for decades. This poem is a perfect example of Sexton's unique style, which combines raw emotion with vivid imagery to create a powerful and unforgettable experience for the reader. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism in Poetry Consorting With Angels, and examine how Sexton's use of language creates a deeply moving and thought-provoking work of art.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing the angels, asking them to "take this poet gently by the hand" and guide her through the process of writing. This opening sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker seeks inspiration and guidance from the divine. Throughout the poem, the angels are portrayed as both benevolent and mysterious, a force that is both comforting and awe-inspiring.

One of the most striking aspects of Poetry Consorting With Angels is the vivid imagery that Sexton uses to describe the creative process. The speaker describes the act of writing as a physical experience, with words "climbing up my throat" and "spilling out of my mouth." This imagery creates a sense of urgency and intensity, as if the act of writing is a matter of life and death.

Sexton also uses a variety of other images to convey the power of poetry. For example, she describes the words as "wild birds" that "fly from my mouth," suggesting that poetry has a life of its own, independent of the poet who creates it. This image is reinforced later in the poem, when the speaker describes the angels as "catching the words as they fall," as if the words are physical objects that can be caught and held.

Another important theme in Poetry Consorting With Angels is the relationship between the poet and the divine. Throughout the poem, the speaker seeks guidance and inspiration from the angels, asking them to "show me the way" and "teach me to fly." This relationship is portrayed as both intimate and reverential, as the speaker acknowledges the power and mystery of the divine.

At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that the act of writing is a deeply personal and individual experience. The speaker describes the words as "my own," and suggests that they are a reflection of her own thoughts and emotions. This tension between the personal and the divine is one of the key themes of the poem, and is explored in depth throughout.

One of the most powerful images in Poetry Consorting With Angels is the description of the angels as "the ones who have seen the unseeable." This image suggests that the angels have access to a realm of knowledge and experience that is beyond human comprehension, and that they are able to guide the poet towards a deeper understanding of the world. This idea is reinforced later in the poem, when the speaker describes the angels as "the ones who know the secret names of things," suggesting that they have a special knowledge of the world that is hidden from ordinary mortals.

Throughout the poem, Sexton also uses a variety of other symbols to convey the power and mystery of the creative process. For example, she describes the words as "sparks" that "fly up to the sky," suggesting that poetry has a transformative power that can lift the poet out of the mundane world and into a realm of beauty and wonder. Similarly, she describes the angels as "the ones who have the key," suggesting that they hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the creative process.

In conclusion, Poetry Consorting With Angels is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the themes of creativity, inspiration, and the relationship between the poet and the divine. Through her use of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and raw emotion, Anne Sexton creates a work of art that is both deeply moving and thought-provoking. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply someone who appreciates great literature, Poetry Consorting With Angels is a must-read that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

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