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The poet of ignorance By Anne Sexton

Anne Sextons The poet of ignorance is a most remarkable confessional poem revealing her innermost beliefs or rather disbeliefs in her own God. The poem offers a glimpse of the torment that an agnostic has to undergo in order to have something to believe in, in order to give a meaning to her life. Anne Sextons spiritual anguish is presented in the metaphor of the huge crab clutching fast to my heart. The pain that emerges from her ignorance of God is not only spiritual, but it also affects her at a physical level as it can be compared to an incurable disease. There is no treatment to it, although the doctors of Boston have tried all kind of remedies. She alone can defeat the crab, but the fight seems useless as her attempts only manage to make the crab stronger: I have tried prayer/but as I pray the crab grips harder/and the pain enlarges. The first stanza of the poem seems to be made up of merely suppositions about the earth, the stars, the moon and about God. These suppositions reinforced by the repeated conclusion I do not know. inflict a feeling of unknowingness on the reader and make him wonder about what we really know about things that are not palpable. The cause of her disease, of her ignorance of God is therefore the fact that there is not enough empirical evidence to prove her that there is indeed a God for all of us, not only the God heard by the deaf, by the ones that take everything they are told for granted and do not search for the truth themselves. The very idea of God is expressed as a paradox here: Perhaps God is only a deep voice/heard by the deaf. At this point, it seems that she totally submits her spiritual life to reason and because of this her heart will be in pain as we will later learn. The supposition concerning her own person, with which the second stanza begins, does not end in the haunting I do not know. A verdict is uttered revealing that introspection has dismissed the uncertainty. However, the verdict is harsh: Perhaps I am no one./True, I have a body/and I cannot escape from it. Her unachievable desire for self-transcendence makes her
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search for meaning futile and destroys her aspirations: I would like to fly out of my head,/but that is out of the question. Despite her lack of faith, she paradoxically adheres to universal determinism as a justification of her personal failure It is written on the tablet of destiny/that I am stuck here in this human form. In the third stanza the focus is on the disease that is consuming her and the way in which Anne deals with it. The severe pain caused by the crab clutching fast to her heart lead her to the doctors, who without being able to find a diagnosis of her heart condition, have tried all kind of remedies. Nothing worked and the first self imposed medicine that was supposed at least to alleviate pain was, ironically, to ignore it: I try to forget it, go about my business. This showing no result, her last attempt is prayer, which could be the only remedy now. The side effects however are too much for her to endure and she abandons this treatment as she realizes how far she is from God and how difficult a fight it would be for her to change all her life: as I pray the crab grips harder/and the pain enlarges. In the concluding stanza, her uncertainty returns perhaps it was a dream and she has a revelation about her suffering: that the crab was my ignorance of God. However, this revelation comes now only like a medical report. It seems that she does not want to recover from it anymore because she cannot give up who she is in order to become one of the deaf that hear the voice of God. The last line But who am I to believe in dreams? incorporates the feelings expressed in the first two stanzas as a return to her own beliefs- that something unverifiable is unworthy of trust and that she is just an ordinary person as she cannot unleash her spirit form her body. Concluding, The poet of ignorance can be said to constitute a futile quest for God, a cry for help from an authoress who seems to be the embodiment of Samuel Becketts famous: I cannot go on. I must go on. I go on. Kotoi Nicoleta-Cristina 2nd year, EN-FR