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Daedal Practicality February 4, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Poetry, Writing.
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As much as she modeled herself upon the myth of spontaneous creativity, Sexton was well aware of the unavoidable drudgery of re-writing and revising, the inescapable daedal craftsmanship that gives integrity and order to the topsy-turvy icarian enthusiasm. Icarus’ flight into the sun can be seen as the uninhibited, chaotic stage of creation, a stage Sexton also referred to as “milking of the unconscious”. In this primal phase, the poet turns off the inner daedal-voice that constrains creativity within known boundaries, completely immersing herself in the raw material produced by the foolhardy unconscious: “You have to turn off the little critic while you are beginning a poem so that it doesn’t inhibit you. Then you have to turn it on again when you are revising and refining”.
Practical Daedalus, Sexton’s “little critic”, can be regarded as the phase of aesthetic structuring, the reconstitution of order. Order and chaos are explored and expressed through poetry: “it’s within a woman to create, to make order, [writing poetry] puts things back in place…things are more chaotic, and if I can write a poem, I come into order again…the world is again a little more sensible and real” (interview with Patricia Marx, 1965).

Works Cited:
J.D. McClatchy, Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics (Indiana UP, 1978).


Icarus Catcher January 15, 2005

Posted by Keren Fite in Poetry, Writing.
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Anne Sexton perceived Icarus as the crazy poet, unbound by the limitations of prudence and propriety, boldly transcending all restrictions, gloriously plummeting into the sea, consumed by his burning creativity:
“…who cares that he fell back to the sea ?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
While his sensible daddy goes straight into town”

As attractive as Icarus’ rise towards the sun might seem, crashing nips his poetic career in the bud. Not willing to compromise the combustible ecstasy of unbound creation with the pragmatism of a sober innovation created within reasonable limits, Icarus remains an unfulfilled creative potential.

In her first meeting with Sexton, Anne Wilder identified the hunger and fear imbedded in Sexton’s creative urge, and observed her desperate need of a safety net: “It was like Icarus plummeting not to destruction in the sea, but into a haven, my lap…[my] heart”, she wrote to Sexton in August 1963. Sexton agreed heartily, “to be caught is not to fall”, she responded. To be caught means to fall into safety rather than into ruin, to hold the rope at both ends: recklessly ignoring danger, transgressing limitations, while simultaneously enjoying the safeguard of a protector, an Icarus catcher.

Works Cited:
Anne Sexton, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph”.
Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991).