I Have Been Her Kind

Posted: April 28, 2007 in All and Sundry, Musings, Random Observations, Stumbled Upon

i also found a video montage of anne sexton’s portraits with her voice reading “her kind”in the background. watch it here.

i may probably seem”flaky” these days considering that i have been crying a lot over seemingly mundane things like say a government official’s disappointing statements or the heart-wrenching 17th episode of “heroes.” the latest reason is one i secretly wanted to cry over but the tears just didn’t come out. instead, i felt this sort of numb tug in my heart, like a swelling ache that became more benign once i finally watched the short video documentary on anne sexton in youtube.

when i found anne sexton on this site, i almost really sobbed. it was something unexplainable, close to the feeling of finally finding a friend–someone you’ve been searching for so long. anne sexton’s poems speak to me more than any other dead white male poet have. i put her beside sylvia and emily, even though most “established” writers in this country would often dismiss them as merely confessional poets.

i agree with what adrienne rich speaks of in her essays on literature that more often than not writing is taught in the most logical way, weaning you away from emotions that’s perceived to be irrational, and towards the classical tradition of rationality. such is the heritage of phallogocentrism.

aesthetic distance should not be mistaken with distance or separation from one’s emotions. gloria anzaldua rages against this imposition and encourages me to “speak with tongues of fire.” sadly though, such imposition has become hegemonic and too powerful for women writers like me ,who belong to the fringes, to fight against. the whole creative writing tradition reeks of such hypocrisy. the reality is that women’s voices in poetry and fiction (even creative nonfiction) are still measured against a phallocentric standard. if you write like you’re wearing your heart on your sleeves, you are considered mad, or worse a bad writer. period.

imagination is oftentimes equated with invention. and so, teachers often discourage students to write based on their “real” experiences, rather they are urged to invent an experience in an imaginary world as though such imaginary world is not influenced by their experience with the “real” non-fictive world.

how does one writer reconcile these impositions?

sometimes, i become extremely annoyed at people who read my stories or poems and then tell me, “grabe, it’s really closely related to your experience noh?”saying this with a bit of a smirk as though your experience is not something worth transforming into fiction. what makes things worse is that such condescending comments often come from your writer-friends. đŸ˜¦

you are often told that a good writer is one who can invent a world other than his/her own. but what world is this? the world i created based on my “real” experience is not less interesting, much less easier to write compared to a world a supposedly “invented.” conversely, it shouldn’t be confused as “real” even just because i have transformed it into fiction.

comments like, “it really happened to her,” that’s why it was written well, implying that the degree of difficulty is lower than say, making-up an experience, really makes my blood boil.

anne sexton is one of those women poets who has written works often considered as testimonial or confessional. she won a pullitzer, among other awards. but then, she was also punished for being honest to herself. she was often called a “mad” poet. the documentary i found on youtube speaks of a troubled life; a life that is perceived to be of one that has been wasted.

but then again, by being true to her voice, ann sexton has lived her life to the fullest despite the fact that she eventually decided to kill herself. her poetry lives on, with the help of feminist literary theorists who strive to carry on re-constructing the literary canon long dominated by male writers. and so because of such changes in thinking, anne’s poetry is then available to women writers like me. they speak to me so that i can also say, “i have been her kind.”

* thanks to online converters of embedded videos, i can download anne sexton’s video, as well as the audio of her reading “her kind” and save them in a cd so i could share them with students. i found sylvia too. (in case you’re wondering)

Her Kind by Anne Sexton

I have gone out, a possessed witch,haunting the black air,
braver at night;dreaming evil, I have done my hitch

over the plain houses, light by light:

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

I have been her kind.I have found the warm caves in the woods,

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,

closets, silks, innumerable goods;

fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:

whining, rearranging the disaligned.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,

learning the last bright routes, survivor

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

I have been her kind.

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