Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Swims Back To Me

Anne Sexton took the suggestion of her psychiatrist very seriously. She therefore, initially, started writing poetry as a kind of therapy and a way to put into words what was impossible to express for so many different reasons. First and foremost the shame. The shame that comes with exposing your weaknesses, your dependence, your inner fears and emotional nakedness. Sexton chose to go the full way and before long, in her effort to overcome her psychological demons, she found herself actually becoming a poet and a good one at that. Today she is one of the most widely read confessional American poets who, together with Plath, Bishop, Kumin and others, have left their mark in modern poetry. She actually brought a new meaning to the word confessional. Confrontational and uncompromising, she stared at every darkness until the sparks of her eyes lighted all the hidden recesses of her mind. Here is what I mean... How can you face the experience of spending time in a psychiatric ward? How can you deal with that? Anne Sexton discovered her way. She wrote a poem and here it is:

Music swims back to me

Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.

Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.

They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.

Peter Gabriel wrote a song about Anne Sexton. It took it's name from one of her poems called "45 Mercy Street" included in the posthumously published book with the same title.

Listen to

Peter Gabriel - Mercy street 

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