Pictures and Poetry: Vincent van Gogh and Anne Sexton

Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night oil on canvas 29 in × 36¼ in (1889)

The night sky had a deep effect on Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), who wrote "It does me good to do difficult things. It does not prevent me from having a terrible need of, shall I say the word - of religion - then I go outside in the night to paint the stars..."

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) is known for her intensely personal confessional poetry, which is full of arresting, even shocking imagery. In looking at van Gogh's The Starry Night, she imagines being swept up in the dramatic movement of the tree, the stars, the moon, and an imagined serpent. She sees the drama as a beckoning call to exit her life by getting "sucked up" into the sky, and expresses her suicidal longing in this poem:
The Starry Night 
by Anne Sexton (1981)   
The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die. 
It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die: 
into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post!
    Thanks, Taryn...I needed this today!


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