Celebrating Womanhood: Poetry by Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) is typically remembered as a “confessional poet” who wrote about depression and the impulse toward suicide. 

Yet she was also exuberantly life-loving.  This poem is inspirational for me because of the way it celebrates the female body and the way its joy spills over into a sense that all women share, in some mysterious way, in any woman’s luck—that we are all in it together.






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Everyone in me is a bird.

I am beating all my wings.   

They wanted to cut you out   

but they will not.

They said you were immeasurably empty   

but you are not.

They said you were sick unto dying   

but they were wrong.

You are singing like a school girl.   

You are not torn.


Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

and of the soul of the woman I am

and of the central creature and its delight   

I sing for you. I dare to live.

Hello, spirit. Hello, cup.

Fasten, cover. Cover that does contain.   

Hello to the soil of the fields.

Welcome, roots.


Each cell has a life.

There is enough here to please a nation.

It is enough that the populace own these goods.   

Any person, any commonwealth would say of it,   

“It is good this year that we may plant again   

and think forward to a harvest.

A blight had been forecast and has been cast out.”

Many women are singing together of this:   

one is in a shoe factory cursing the machine,   

one is at the aquarium tending a seal,   

one is dull at the wheel of her Ford,   

one is at the toll gate collecting,

one is tying the cord of a calf in Arizona,   

one is straddling a cello in Russia,

one is shifting pots on the stove in Egypt,

one is painting her bedroom walls moon color,   

one is dying but remembering a breakfast,   

one is stretching on her mat in Thailand,   

one is wiping the ass of her child,

one is staring out the window of a train   

in the middle of Wyoming and one is   

anywhere and some are everywhere and all   

seem to be singing, although some can not   

sing a note.


Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

let me carry a ten-foot scarf,

let me drum for the nineteen-year-olds,

let me carry bowls for the offering

(if that is my part).

Let me study the cardiovascular tissue,

let me examine the angular distance of meteors,   

let me suck on the stems of flowers

(if that is my part).

Let me make certain tribal figures

(if that is my part).

For this thing the body needs

let me sing

for the supper,   

for the kissing,   

for the correct   


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Comment by Alicia Suskin Ostriker on May 3, 2011 at 3:34pm



Your comment is definitely on target.  I enjoyed 'The Hours' but hated the fact that people who didn't know Virginia Woolf was a gregarious, spirited, witty, social being would think she was always the depressed limp rag we see in the film.  As to Sexton, she really was both life-loving and clinically depressed, and attempted suicide numerous times.  Friends like Maxine Kumin knew she one day would go through with it but didn't know when.

Comment by Pauline Frederica Kiernan on May 3, 2011 at 3:04pm

Thank you for reminding us of Anne Sexton's brilliance.If I may just add:


There's no 'yet' as in your 'Anne Sexton (1928-1974) is typically remembered as a “confessional poet” who wrote about depression and the impulse toward suicide.

Yet she was also exuberantly life-loving.'

As with Virginia Woolf and Mary Wollstonecraft, the perceived view of these brilliant women that they were more depressed than otherwise is a myth. Of course the dreadul film 'The Hours' did great harm in perpetuating the myth that Woolf was always depressed. Read my friend Lyndall Gordon's wonderful life of her to get a much more accurate idea of her wicked wit and laughter.

Thanks again,


Comment by Amy Jo Sprague on April 28, 2011 at 11:39am
Love Anne Sexton, love this poem


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