the starry night anne sexton meaning
Like art, poetry often consists of many layers of meaning and several possible interpretations. Anne Sexton’s “The Starry Night”, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, portrays the night as powerful and majestic; it is also illustrated as agitated and hot. The speaker clearly wants to become part of this glory; it is, however, uncertain whether this represents death or life.
into that rushing beast of the night,
“Now more than ever seems it rich to die,/ To cease upon the midnight with no pain,/ While thou art pouring forth thy soul/ In such an ecstasy!”
The refrain “This is how I want to die” is repeated twice in the poem. It is a sort of mantra, and is central to the meaning of this poem in my view. I know that I always bring everything back to Keats, but this reminds me of his Ode to a Nightingale. In Nightingale, the poet listens to the beautiful sound of the bird’s voice (which represents the eternal beauty of Poetry and Art) and feels that this would be the perfect moment 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:
She does not fear the death foreshadowed by nature’s brute force, because it represents release from the burden of life. She also sees the moon as a great dragon that will suck her up into its being. And she desires to fuse silently and painlessly with the infinite, she wants to be a part of mythology, in a world where the “old, unseen serpent swallows up the stars”. and the moon pushes children “like a god, from its eye”.
That does not keep me from having a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. – Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother
Still, everything around is full of life, even in this stillness of the night. Even the moon is alive changing it’s shape and color continuously. In fact the elements of the sky spinning and creating the twirling shapes in the painting are also a form of life and movement, a way for the painter to show everything’s moving around.
THE POEM TO ME IS CONSIDERD TO BE A PLEA OF DEATH, HE SEES NO POINT OF LIVING, AFTER HOURS NO ONE CARES THAT HE EXISTS…ALL HE HAS TO DEPEND ON IS THE STARS AND THE DARK NIGHT. HE COULD COUNT ON THE MOON, BUT THE MOON HAS OTHER PRORITIES,AND HIS EXISTENCE IS NOT ONE.
I have to agree with Shawn. The first time I ever read this poem (in tenth grade), I was struck with the sense that the speaker herself wanted to die. I immediately got the feeling that Anne Sexton was suicidal. And then my teacher confirmed it. About her battle with depression, her suicide attempts, her hospitalization, and eventual death. It really is quite amazing how much this poem and Anne Sexton’s life go hand-in-hand. It’s as if she was speaking in code about her own life, daring someone to figure out the riddle and know the dreadful fate she wished for herself.