Wednesday, April 3, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 3: "Pain for a Daughter" by Anne Sexton

Read "Pain for a Daughter" here (along with a video of Anne Sexton reading it, and bonus captions in Dutch.)

I lived in Massachusetts in the 1970s, and I had a high-school poetry teacher (hello, Peter Flynn!) who made it his mission to teach us about poets who had lived and written and died right there in New England, poets who knew the bleak, bare trees of November in the Berkshires and that strange Northeast mixture of history and decay. He steeped us in Dickinson and Frost and Emerson, but mostly in Anne Sexton—a Massachusetts darling who had died just a couple years earlier, and whose death still plainly stung this wonderful teacher.

I studied so much Sexton that she became a kind of patron saint to me, and I love so many of her poems that it was hard to choose just one for this month. But I also knew somehow that "Pain for a Daughter" would be the one: it has the daughter, and the horses she loves, and how her love for them is pulling her up out of her childhood and away into a more dangerous land that her mother can't follow her to. That was me at 13, when I lived in Massachusetts: a kid with a sick horse, a kid who had to learn how to walk him for half the night when he had colic, and give injections, and worry, and ultimately lose him. And that was me with the horse standing on my foot "like a building" (it happens to horse people all the time). And I can't tell you how often I've used my all-time favorite line, "the swan-whipped thoroughbred" *, as an example of something Sexton excelled at: putting words together that had never before made each other's acquaintance, and doing something extraordinarily new with them.

I'm a little embarrassed to be sharing a YouTube clip (with the poem's words printed under the video if you click "show more"); I couldn't find a legit copy of this poem online. God bless Anne Sexton's estate, I guess; they must keep a close eye on the rights to these poems.

(* And, thanks to this subtitled video, I learned that "swan-whipped thoroughbred" in Dutch is opvliegende volbloed.)

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

No comments:

Post a Comment