Finding the feminist poetics of Anne Sexton AND The arrow, the sty, the spur and the blessing: desire in the poetry of W. B. Yeats.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Virginia Smith (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Hephzibah Roskelly

Abstract: Anne Sexton described herself in a letter as "the woman of poems, the woman of the kitchen, the woman of the private (but published) hungers." I argue that because she wrote about taboo subjects and improper appetites she expanded the collective consciousness and gave greater freedom to women. Her titles alone could shock a reader who was accustomed to the image of a docile and obedient 1950s "housewife." She wrote "Menstruation at Forty", "The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator" and "In Celebration of My Uterus" with noteworthy candor in tackling subjects of female anatomy which had been deemed improper for polite conversation. Her poems were and are powerful tools for consciousness-raising because if the personal is political, then the poems of a woman who writes about her hungers for sex, success, personal identity and more are charged with an urgent social message. This paper investigates the feminist poetics of Sexton's writing including her writing about illicit appetites, her shattering of the image of the 1950s housewife, the role of revisionist mythmaking and her embodiment of the grotesque. AND William Butler Yeats wrote "We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry" ( 405). This paper will explore the ways in which Yeats quarreled with himself over the subject of desire. Yeats wrote poems throughout his life that wrestled with the issue of desire. Desire is present throughout his entire collection of poetry and shown in many different incarnations with contradictory facets. Desire is figured as a destructive force symbolized by a bow and arrow in his early love poetry. In the rebellious and defiant poems Yeats wrote in the voice of female personas, desire is unabashedly celebrated, even if it is not a heavenly mansion but rather a jovial sty since "love has pitched his mansion I in the place of excrement". In his later poetry Yeats came to terms with his desire and realized that desire is a spur to self-knowledge and creativity. At the end of his life Yeats was able to represent moments of transcendent wonder and see desire and the body as a blessing.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Feminist poetry, Desire, William Butler Yeats, Anne Sexton
Sexton, Anne, $d 1928-1974 $x Criticism and interpretation
Feminist poetry, American $x History and criticism
Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), $d 1865-1939 $x Criticism and interpretation
Desire in literature

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